From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani, started another blame game last Thursday when he alleged that he inherited liabilities worth over N28 billion when he assumed office.
The minister, who appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta in Abuja to defend his ministry’s 2017 budget proposal, told the lawmakers the progress as regards the implementation of the 2016 budget.
He reminded them of the enormous task ahead, particularly as it concerns the establishment of new projects and programmes in the region, in addition to the task of sustaining the existing peace, which would engender infrastructural and human capital development.
Uguru claimed that the budgetary need of the ministry has consistently been on the increase as a result of inflation and other economic developments that have adversely affected the cost of projects in the region: “For the ministry to successfully complete all its planned projects by 2018, we need far in excess of the N131 billion we earlier requested. On daily basis, there are recurrent issues of financial demand, coupled with inflation rate.”
He defended the N35,501,382,365.00 budgetary proposal for the 2017 fiscal year. The breakdown of the budget proposal indicated that personnel cost was put at N1,081,793,24, while N727,081,124.00 was proposed for overhead and N33,692,500,000.00 was for capital projects.
Regarding 2016 budget implementation, the minister was unhappy that out of N19.4 billion and N727.2 million appropriated to the ministry for capital and overhead expenditure in 2016, only N8.1 billion of the capital appropriation was released, while N525,569,190.94 was released as overhead expenditures.
Committee chairman, Essien Ayi, identified the region as key to Nigeria’s economic development and pledged legislative support to develop the region.
“It is disheartening to hear that so much has been allocated to Niger Delta but little impact is made,” he said.