Supremacy Battle Over NDDC Worsens As NASS Panels Close Ranks To Tackle Akpabio

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The supremacy battle for the soul of the Niger Delta Development Commission has worsened with both chambers of the National Assembly now united to challenge the activities of the Interim Management Committee allegedly handpicked by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs , Senator Godswill Akpabio.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that some powerful stakeholders who are currently playing major roles in the All Progressives Congress – led Federal Government and Akpabio, are involved in high level politicking on the NDDC affairs.

The Senate had taken a firm decision to reject the continued control of the agency by the IMC by hurriedly approving the nominees for the Niger Delta board forwarded to the Senate last year and vowed not to interact with Akpabio ’ s caretaker team.

Our correspondent learnt that the Senate concluded the process of screening and confirmation despite the fact that the President , Major General Muhammadu Buhari ( retd . ) allegedly reached out to the Senate leadership to halt the process .

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However , the Senate appeared to have lost out in the power game when Buhari refused to inaugurate the board members, who were screened and confirmed by the members of the Senate.

The action of the Presidency , through a statement by its spokesperson , Femi Adesina , announcing plans to recompose a fresh list for the NDDC board , was said to have further angered the senators

While members of the Senate panel on the Niger Delta Affairs ignored the IMC and the combined 2019 /2020 budgets of the agency presented to it by General Buhari , their counterparts in the House of Representatives were romancing the caretaker committee members .

However , the honeymoon between the reps panel and the IMC seems to be over as the leadership of both chambers had allegedly taken a firm position on the crisis rocking the NDDC.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the National Assembly leadership had realised that its panels rather than the Akpabio ’ s IMC, should coordinate a forensic investigation into the finances of the agency since its establishment.

A member of the Senate panel, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Friday, alleged that Akpabio hurriedly put the IMC together when the joint panels of the National Assembly announced plans to probe the agency.

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He said , “ When we discovered that the NDDC management shunned our invitations to them for the presentation of the 2018 performance , we made up our mind to probe the agency ’ s financial transactions in the last 10 years.

“ There are series of intrigues within and outside the Niger Delta region , regarding the NDDC’ s affairs.

“ The commission ’ s 2019 budget proposal was supposed to have been presented to the National Assembly , and approved before July 31 , 2019 when the commission ’ s 2018 budget expired.

“ We demanded the 2018 budget performance then but the management of the agency deliberately ignored us .

“ We also planned a forensic investigative audit into some transactions of the agency but the management is playing politics with it. ”

A member of the House of Representatives committee on the NDDC , who also spoke on condition of anonymity on Friday , confirmed that the green chamber ‘‘ is now on the same page with the Senate on the agency ’ s affairs. ’’

He said , “ We have discovered that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was playing politics by attempting to employ divide by rule tactics with the two chambers.

“ The best thing is for an agency to present and successfully defend the budget performance of an outgoing year before an approval could be given for a fresh proposal.

“ I can confirm to you that both chambers of the National Assembly are united at the moment on the issue of NDDC budgets before us.

“ Granted that there is a smooth working relationship between the President Buhari ’ s- led federal executive and the 9 th National Assembly but we have to do the right thing . ”

Attempts to get the reaction of the Niger Delta Ministry through the Minister of State , Senator Tayo Alasoadura, failed on Friday as he declined comments.

Alasoadura, who did not pick his calls , however replied to the text message sent to him by simply writing “ No comment please . ”

However , the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC , Mr Olubunmi Tunji – Ojo , confirmed to our correspondent that the green chamber would await the submission of the agency ’ s 2018 budget performance before proceeding with the processing of the 2019 /2020 budgets pending before his panel.

He said , “ We requested the 2018 budget performance of the NDDC which is a normal thing to do .

“ We are on break now . We hope they will bring it when we resume so that we can continue further work on the budget before our committee. ”

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the non – submission of the NDDC 2018 budget performance was adversely affecting the processing of the 2019 and 2020 budgets of the agency .

It was learnt that management of the agency , upon expiration of its 2018 budget in July 2019 , started spending some money yet to be approved by the National Assembly.

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The development forced the National Assembly , to issue series of queries and summons to the agency ’ s management .

The total size of the expired NDDC ’ s 2018 budget is N 346. 5 bn.
It is made up of N2 . 883 bn for Capital Expenditure , while N 311. 371 bn was approved for development projects.

The sum of N 19 . 521 bn was for Personnel, while N12 . 737 bn was for Overhead Expenditure.

Also in 2017 , the NDDC got a total of N364 bn as its annual budget , out of which N329 . 850 bn was approved for capital projects.

Senate President , Ahmad Lawan had said the current NDDC management had become voided with the confirmation of the appointment of the commission ’ s board.

However , the IMC has continued to manage the commission ’ s affairs with presidential backing .

The minister had said the committee would run the NDDC for six months and oversee its forensic audit, which the National Assembly was also planning to carry out.

(PUNCH)
Photo: file

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