NASS, NDDC in face-off over missing N143billion

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There is fresh crisis between the National Assembly and the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC over the failure of the commission to explain the whereabouts of N143b, being part of N305.5b released to the agency in the 2019 budget.

There was a rowdy session among the National Assembly’s joint committee on Niger Delta Affairs and officials of the NDDC led to the suspension of the budget defense session on Tuesday in Abuja

The IMC of NDDC led by Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, had appeared before the Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North)-led National Assembly Joint Committee on Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC to defend the 2019 budget expenditure and also present 2020 budget proposal.

While presenting the 2019 budget expenditure before the committee, Pondei told the lawmakers that NDDC received N305.5b in 2019 and spent N122b from leaving a balance of N183.2b.

Pondei stated that in compliance with provisions of the 2019 Appropriation Act, the NDDC implemented the 2019 capital budget till May 31.

“On expenditure, implementation of the 2019 budget was hindered by delays in its approval and release coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Only recurrent expenditure, which runs from January 1 to December 31 2019 was implemented substantially,” Pondei explained.

Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, however, faulted the 2019 budget report of the commission as he said the report submitted to the joint committee only revealed N40 billion.

Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, pointed out that there were discrepancies in the process, adding that a shortfall of N143b had arisen.

Ojo said: “What you have here (expenditure) is N122 billion from what you said from the actual money you received, you received N305,570,683,529.87. It means that the available balance that you have there is always a debit and a credit.

“If you received N305 billion and spent N122 billion, what you are telling us now is that the fund available to the commission, as we speak, will be N183,315,748,214.58. Would that be available to be brought forward?”

The commission is expected to bring forward a balance of N183.2b in the 2020 budget proposal. But, the report submitted to the committee showed that only N40b was brought forward.

When Chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta queried Pondei on the discrepancies, he (Pondei) requested for withdraw of the 2019 budget details to address discrepancies of N143b Tuniji-Ojo raised.

The lawmakers were, however, angry when Pondei asked for withdrawal of the 2019 budget review for representation. Chairman, Senate Committee on NDDC, Peter Nwaboshi, granted Pondei’s request and adjourned the budget presentation till next week Tuesday.

He explained that of the N305.5b released for the NDDC in the 2019 budget, it spent N122.3b and the balance ought to have been N183b, but the NDDC brought forward only N40b leaving out N143b.