Niger Delta Affairs Ministry Owes N50bn, Says Minister

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The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Abubakar Momoh, on Thursday, December 14, said the ministry owed contractors over N50 billion for both executed, ongoing and abandoned projects in the region.

The National Assembly Joint Committee on Niger Delta Affairs also stepped down the budget defence and summoned the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun and his counterpart in the Budget and Economic Planning ministry, Atiku Bagudu to appear before it in respect of the budget the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

The summon is sequel to the appearance of Momoh before the committee when a member of the committee, Senator Seriake Dickson raised a motion to adjourn the sitting indefinitely until both ministers of Finance and Budget and Economic Planning appear with the minister of Niger Delta Affairs to shed more light around the poor budgetary envelope for the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and fund releases for projects among others.

According to Momoh, the budget of the ministry is meager, adding that so many things they are supposed to do are being performed by other agencies.

 

He noted that the amnesty programme which deals with disarmament is now carrying out programmes of development and empowerment.

“There are alot of programmes going on in the Niger Delta which ordinarily

 

should be done by the ministry,” Momoh said.

He added that for the 2023 budget performance, the budget estimates was N14.5 billion but that even though N11 billion was later approved, only N4.2 billion was released which according to him, was too small to even embarked on a road project.

“A total of 14.5 billion was the estimate including capital, recurrent and overheads but what came to the ministry was just N4.2 billion out of the N11 billion that was approved. The 2023 budget performance is put at 37 percent,” Momoh said.

“The N14 billion budget estimate is meagre to meet the requirements of the ministry. How many kilometers of road can N4 billion construct?” Momoh queried.

He added: “We have a lot of abandoned projects. We have a lot of completed projects. Those that have been awarded and have not been paid are worth over N50 billion,” Momoh said.

“Since I took over, I’ve gotten over 2000 requests from people asking for training in the Niger Delta. If I have the required resources, be assured that I will do a lot,” Momoh said.

He said he is not aware whether the President is aware of the N50 billion debt in his ministry because, according to him, he has not had the opportunity of discussing the issue with the president but that the Ministry of Finance is aware of the debt.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Babajide Ipinsagba, said they must do everything to ensure that the people that are being owed are settled since most of them collected loans to do the projects.

Ipinsagba blamed the situation on cash plan of the agency, saying “If a contractor completed his job, it is expected that once the Minister approves you should get your money in two weeks.

“But you have to upload the approval and another person will determine if there is money to pay for the job done.”

Also the House of Reps Committee Chairman on Niger Delta, Hon. Ugonna Ozurigbo, urged the minister to identify projects he can complete and commission and not embark on projects that will later be abandoned.

Earlier, the Minister briefed the committee on the 2023 budget performance of the ministry and answered questions around project execution, project abandonment, fund releases and with a cumulative debt portfolio of the ministry totalling over N50billion.

Engr. Momoh said for the 2023 budgetary provision of N11billion only N4billion was released from the capital budget which represents about 37% which he described as merger and inadequate to meet the challenges of the region.

He said: “This grossly inadequate budget has led to project abandonment and unpaid projects and so, this paucity of funds can lead to the derailment of the mission and vision of the ministry.”

While answering questions on training and empowerment for women and youths in the region, the minister said there was nothing the ministry could do, if money is not released for training and empowerment and as such, the training and acquisition of knowledge has been slowed down.

He said: “We have signed performance bond with the President but with paucity of funds there’s nothing we can do.

“The purse of the nation is in your hands as lawmakers, we need you to empower the ministry to deliver. We do hope that with your approval, you will give us support for more and better funds release in the 2024 budget.”

On whether Mr. President was aware of the situation in the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Minister said, “I cannot say he’s aware. It would be pretty difficult for the president to know all the details of happenings in all the ministries.”

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