There was mild drama at the National Assembly yesterday as the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Professor Pondei, was unable to account for a shortfall of N143 billion in its 2019 budget.
Professor Pondei had led other members of the Interim Committee of the NDDC before the National Assembly Joint committee on Niger Delta Affairs to defend its 2019 expenditure and also present its 2020 budget proposal.
While defending the 2019 budget of the NDDC, Pondei told the lawmakers that Commission received N305.5 billion as revenue in 2019 and spent N122 billion, leaving a balance of N183.2 billion. He said;
“In compliance with the provision of the 2019 Appropriation Act, we implemented the 2019 capital budget till May 31st 2020. On the expenditure side, 2019 budget implementation was hindered by the delay in its approval and release coupled with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Only the recurrent expenditure which runs from January 1st to December 31st, 2019 was implemented substantially.”
Drama ensued when Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, asked Pondei to explain why only N40 billion out of the N183.2 billion balance was brought forward in the submission of the agency before the panel, leaving an outstanding difference of N143billion. Other members of the committee pointed out discrepancies in the budget
After a heated argument, Professor Pondei requested for the withdrawal of 2019 budget details to enable the Commission to address the N143 billion discrepancy raised by the committee members.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, acceded to the request of the MD of NDDC to withdraw the report and adjourned the 2020 budget defense session of the agency to next Tuesday, July 21.
The NCDC which was set up to address developmental shortfalls in the Niger Delta region has been enmeshed in a corruption scandal in recent times.