Senate panel, Akpabio disagree over tinkering with budget
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, yesterday disagreed with the Senate Committee on Niger Delta over who could tinker with the budget.
The Senate committee had last week raised concern that they, as stakeholders, were not carried along, especially concerning 10 projects that were abandoned in the region.
It rejected the 2020 capital budget of N23 billion for the ministry due to uncompleted projects in the region captured in 2019.
Chairman of the committee, Peter Nwaoboshi, made the declaration when Akpabio appeared before the committee to defend the ministry’s budget of N25,910,486,285.
The senators pointed to many abandoned projects all over the nine Niger Delta states discovered after the oversight function carried out in the ministry.
They insisted on not approving the budget in the face of abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.
Consequently, they ordered the minister to go back and rework the budget.
However, when the minister and his team appeared before the committee yesterday, Akpabio said only the National Assembly had the right to tamper with the budget, not the ministers who submitted.
The minister told the senators that what they came to do was part of the processes towards passing the budget.
“In the ministry, we also have procedures, one of which is that we must meet the deadline of submission to the budget office, thereafter from there the budget office would evaluate. Thereafter, we would be invited to ensure we comply with the circular and then we have a bilateral discussion with the ministry of finance through the budget office.
“It is the totality of what we submitted that the president presented to the National Assembly.
“So we are before you to defend part of the president’s budget. We don’t even have the right to tamper with what the president has submitted to the National Assembly,” he said.
Defending the committee’s position, Nwaoboshi said the president in his budget speech had laid emphasis on the completion of as many ongoing projects as possible.
He quoted the speech, “Rather than commencing new ones, MDAs have not been allowed to build the project into their capital budget for 2020 unless adequate provision has been made for the completion of last year’s projects.”