Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The House of Representatives ordered the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to suspend all payments with immediate effect, except for the staff costs for the purported operation of fiscal year 2019 without a budget approved by the National Assembly.
The directive followed the passage of a motion on the urgency of investigating the NDDC’s failure and refusal to submit its 2019 budget estimates to the National Assembly for approval presented by the Hon. Benjamin Kalou.
The House also summoned the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to explain to the House why the committee spent money that was not allocated and approved by the National Assembly.
Kalu, in the motion, expressed concern that more than 13 months after the deadline required by law, the NDDC had yet to submit an estimate of its expenses and income for the year 2019.
He thereby stated that the committee had failed to comply with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, as well as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, stressing that the budget estimates should have been presented to the House by September 30. 2018.
Kalu noted that despite the committee’s failure to submit the 2019 budget estimates to the House, it has been operating for an entire year, spending and awarding contracts according to its master plan, with some awarded contracts worth 10 billion naira with no approved budget as required. by the constitution and enabling legislation.
The lawmaker pointed out that the commission had also violated the provisions of Article 82 of the Constitution of 1999 as amended by incurring expenses well beyond six months as required by law and had spent more than half of the amount approved by the National Assembly in its 2018 budget.
Kalu said: “The delay in the submission and adoption of the NDDC budget as well as the continuation of the commission’s spending beyond the constitutional threshold amounts to fiscal indiscipline, breeds corruption and provides a platform for the arbitrariness of the direction of the commission.
Kalu cited Article 80 (3) and (4) of the Constitution, which provides that “no amount may be withdrawn from a public fund of the Federation, other than the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation, unless that the issuance of these funds has not been authorized by a law of the National Assembly
“No sum may be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”
The House therefore tasked the NDDC committee to thoroughly investigate the financial activities of the commission over the past three years and report back within four weeks.