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Senate rejects Niger Delta ministry’s budget over exclusion of uncompleted projects

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THE budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs for 2020 has been rejected by the Senate Committee on Niger Delta for neglecting uncompleted capital projects in place of new ones.

The Committee’s chairman, Peter Nwaobishi, who is also the senator representing Delta North senatorial district made this known on Monday during a budget defence session led by Minister God’swill Akpabio.

The Niger Delta Affairs presented the budget of N25,910, 486,285 but Nwaobishi asked the Ministry to reappear before the Committee next Monday to re-defend the budget.

Explaining why the budget was rejected, Nwaobishi said the Ministry is afflicted by abandoned projects littering all over the nine states in the region.

“There is no state, I dare to say, that there is no local government where there are no abandoned projects in the Niger Delta. We cannot continue like that. With all the abandoned projects in the Niger Delta and we are talking about new projects; these new projects are designed to fail.

“Honourable Minister, we need to look at this budget again and we expect you to do your cleanup because the documents we needed were not supplied to us,” said Nwaobishi.

None of the Ministry’s projects has been commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in the last four years, he said.

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Also, Enyinnaya Abaribe, senator representing Abia-South Senatorial District has expressed reservation over the disappearance of uncompleted projects in the budget

“I have been looking at the 2020 budget and have seen that many projects have been removed that is why the chairman said there are about 10 projects in the 2019 budget which have disappeared.

“If some work has been done on the budget as part of 2019 and some stretched from 2017 to 2018 and this one stretches from that what happened?” Abaribe asked.

He advised that the budget be reworked while taking into cognisance the missing uncompleted projects for inclusion.

Sandy Onor Ojang representing Cross River Central, complained of a situation where the capital “outlay is even lower than personnel and other costs.

“We must work together. A budget is not just a piece of paper or something theoretical. It must have a practical basis. So I think that this year, we should work together – all of us, all of us – in the interest of our country to make sure that this budget is truly a budget.

“If not it becomes a ritual to have us come and sit here. When there are no capital releases, what are we really talking about?

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But the Niger Delta Minister appealed the lawmakers to join him to appeal the Minister of  Finance, Budget and National Planning to increase the capital component of the ministry’s budget instead of rejecting the budget.

He noted that the 2020 capital budget of the ministry could not complete a 10kilometre road in the region.

“Again, there is nothing we could have done about the budget based on the fact that we are yet to receive even one naira for the capital project for 2019 that is still being processed in the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

Akpabio while analysing the 2020 budget, stated that an average sum of N2, 626,705,599.00 is allocated to each of the nine states of the region based on the capital ceiling.

“This amount which is expected to cater for roads, environment, health, social inclusion and provision of water, which are priority needs of the people of the region, in accordance with the ERGP, cannot conveniently pay for a quality 10km road in any part of the States in the region, thus underscoring the inadequacy of the ceiling given to the Ministry.

“This gross inadequate funding has led over the years to the following: Plethora of abandoned/uncompleted projects. A protracted delay in project delivery, negative perception of the Ministry and loss-of-faith in the Federal Government by the people of the region, and difficulty in the realization of Mr. President’s vision for the region,” he said.

Speaking to journalists at the end of the session, Tayo Alasoadura, Minister of State for Niger Delta,   said if the ministry was to capture all the projects identified as uncompleted, “very paltry amount of money would be allocated for each. And this, he added, “would not make sense and would be a budget designed to fail”.

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“If we have 300 projects and you have money that can capture only 150 why put everything there and allocate a small amount of money that will not make any difference at the end of the day?,” said Alasoadura

Akpabio said he would visit the Ministry of Finance to see “whether it is possible to have capital released for this year.”

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