Muted outcry over ‘missing’ NDDC 2016 budget

* NDDC’s Cairo Ojougboh:  The bureaucrats told us there was no 2016 budget * Stakeholders: The 2016 budget has been removed on the website * Insiders: NDDC had 2016 budget and it was publicised

The claim by a top management official of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that the Commission did not have a budget in 2016 has caused consternation in many quarters and silent outcry in the oil region. Sources insist there was an approved budget for that year. 

The Commission’s embattled executive director (projects), Cairo Ojougboh, had disclosed at a television interview in the week that the NDDC did not have budgets for some years especially 2016. He said the bureaucrats in the Commission told him so.

His words which were later posted on his facebook account stated thus: “Between 2016 and 2019, emergency contracts of over two trillion naira were awarded under the supervision of the chairmen of both committees. And I have the list of how the contracts were distributed. In the list, the chairman, senate committee on Niger Delta collected 1000 of those jobs and said he was going to share it among the senators, but the senators denied knowledge of such files. We have the records. These 1000 contracts were collected by a man called Nelson Agbamuche purported on behalf of the Senate.

“The immediate crisis that we are witnessing is as a result of the budget. How did the budget run into problem? The bureaucracy told us when we came in that in 2016, there was no budget; 2017 there was no budget, 2018, there was no budget. The budget for 2019 was passed some weeks ago.”

The claim that there was no budget in 2016 has however provoked curiosity and kicked off dust in a troubled agency where loyalties shift daily and suspicion is rife. Some insiders in the Commission who did not want to be named told newsmen that they helped to prepare the 2016 budget.

They insisted that the 2016 budget was the only one that was uploaded on the Commission’s website from where the public accessed it. They however said they were shocked to go back there now and find it has been yanked off.

Giving details, the sources said the NDDC had submitted a budget of N260Bn to the senate and that on June 24, 2016, the senate passed N241Bn.

They also showed some newspaper reports of the budget approval and particularly quoted a section thus: “The National Assembly on Thursday passed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) 2016 budget. In the Senate, the budget was following the adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta presented by its chairman, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.

“In passing the budget, the Senate reduced the initial budget of N260 billion earlier presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to N241.1 billion, thus implying a total of N18.950 billion reduction.

“The breakdown of the budget includes N212.2 billion for development projects; N1.3 billion as internal capital expenditure; N9.980Bn overhead expenditure and N17.560Bn personnel expenditure.”

In the House of Representatives, the budget was approved by the lawmakers following adoption of the report of the Committee on NDDC, headed by Hon. Nicholas Mutu.”

It was gathered that financial analysts in the region had reviewed the 2016 budget along with others before it and came up with N864Bn as budgets of the Commission from 2014 to 2016 thus: N322.6Bn in 2014, N300Bn in 2015, and N241Bn in 2016. They insisted there was an approved budget in 2016.

Some other insiders however said Ojougboh was not putting down previous administration in the Commission but was trying to show how deeply rooted and how far-fetched the budget crisis in the Commission was. They argued that the executive director was only trying to show how the resort to ‘emergency contracts’ began.

Ojougboh had told the interviewer: “What led to this? When a chairman of senate committee came in, in 2015, he called the bureaucracy of NDDC and told them to insert jobs worth N15Bn for him, they went back and complied. But when the budget was sent to him, he said he did not mean N15Bn, but N150Bn. The bureaucracy went back couldn’t comply because there was no way they could do that. The chairman advised them to award the contracts as emergency jobs so they won’t go through the due processes. That was how the emergency procedures were breached and the Commission presently has liabilities of over three trillion naira. How can this continue?”.

His defenders said this was the beginning of the same emergency jobs the National Assembly was hyping as evil.

Efforts to get reaction of the media department of the NDDC for clarifications on why the executive director took such a position of ‘no budget in 2016’ proved a failure as at the time of filing this report

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