By Joshua Williams
Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, umbrella body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta, has voiced deep concern at the low-cut appropriations by President Muhammadu Buhari to projects in the Niger-Delta region in the 2021 Appropriation Bill forwarded to the National Assembly for approval.
The group in a statement by the national publicity secretary, Hon Ken Robinson, said: “We are further disturbed that of the N3.84 trillion capital budget that Mr. President presented, nothing substantial was allocated to the Niger Delta region.”
PANDEF asserted: “Mr. President said the 2021 Budget is expected to accelerate the pace of the nation’s economic recovery, enhance competitiveness and ensure social inclusion, among others,” querying, “how can those laudable considerations be achieved when the appropriation bill is lopsided in the usual manner, in terms of project distribution.”
“For instance, in the budget presented, statutory transfer to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is only N63.51b. But the NDDC Act provides that the Federal Government shall contribute the equivalent of 15 per cent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to member states of the commission from the federation account; being the contribution of the federal government to the commission.
“Now the question we would like to ask is whether the N63.51 billion allocated to the commission in 2021 budget represents the said 15 percent.
“PANDEF would like to also ask, what are the projects in the Niger Delta region captured in N404 billion allocation for Ministry of Works and Housing; the N153 billion for Ministry of Water Resources; and the N110 billion for Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and etcetera.
“That there is NDDC or Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs should not warrant the exclusion of the Niger Delta region from projects of ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government; whereas the region is in dire need of critical infrastructure.
“The state of the East-West road is an ugly stain on Nigeria’s political administrative logic, especially for something considered a signature project.
The Calabar-Itu Road is also in an appalling state of disrepair. And what is the status of the touted Bonny-Bodo road, even with a reported contribution of US $167m by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Limited?
“Regrettably, drawing from Mr. President’s 2021 budget speech, the principal interest of the federal government remains the exploitation of the resources of the Niger Delta people, and not the development of the region nor its people,” the regional group claimed.