Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trillions, not for Niger Delta?

THE Federal Government has set itself up for embarrassment over the Niger Delta. After several assurances, many conferences and the setting up of a Ministry of the Niger Delta, it is becoming obvious that little would change.
It is not an entirely new story. Starting from the failed promises to ensure the release of accumulated allocations to Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, government has found itself in a situation where it could ruin all the gains of the rapprochement of the past months.

A paltry budget of N77.12 billion for the Niger Delta has drawn the ire of South South legislators who want N107.4 billion, calculated from various entitlements of the NDDC, to be allocated to NDDC in the 2009 budget. They also demanded that more than N300 billion owed NDDC in arrears since 2003, should be paid.

In more than five years of unprecedented favourable oil receipts, NDDC’s entitlements were not paid. The sheer hypocrisy of those days on the Niger Delta forms the bases for the deception that subsists.

More startling, it is obvious that the issue is no longer paucity of resources to allocate to the region. Even allocated ones are never released.

Senator Ayo Eze on Tuesday revealed that the Federal Government overspent the 2008 budget by N1.3 trillion. It would be interesting to know what the money was spent on, in a year, no major project was commenced or completed.

How much of this over expenditure was on the Niger Delta? There is no money to fund education, provide security, improve transportation, tackle burgeoning poverty and illnesses, yet government indulges in wastes that once used to be in billions of Naira. Now they run in trillions.

Niger Delta has only N77.12 billion earmarked for the region in the 2009 budget, but Senator Eze also disclosed the Federal Government would spend an unapproved N3 trillion next year.

The Senate sounds helpless about the Executive spending unapproved money. It is a major constitutional breach --and it is criminal. If it needs to spend more money than approved, the Executive is supposed to present a supplementary budget.

What excuse suffices for the Executive to present a budget of N2.74 trillion while there is evidence it would spend N6.068 trillion? What type of budgeting is this? It is no longer enough for the National Assembly to inform Nigerians of these infractions, it must do something about them.

Section 80 (1) states, "All revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

(2) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of those moneys has been authorised by an Appropriation Act or an Act passed in pursuance of section 81 of this Constitution.

(3) No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, unless the issue of the moneys has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.

(4) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly ".

The enormous powers of the National Assembly to oversee federal expenditure flow from this section. It must use them to rein in unbridled wasteful expenditure, especially at a time Nigerians are already choking from the consequences of past mismanagement of national resources.