Abuja — The Chairman of the House of Representative Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Hon. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo, has decried allegations that his committee vandalised and inflated the 2019 budget as submitted by the commission to the National Assembly.
NDDC Executive Chairman, Dr. Cairo Ojuigoh, had at an interview on the Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise TV channel, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY, alleged that both NDDC committees in the National Assembly vandalised and raised their budget as well as removed all the regional projects of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But in a telephone conversation with THISDAY, the lawmaker debunked the allegations, describing it as a sheer blackmail.
He explained that in the 2019 budget that was submitted by the commission, they overstated their revenue profile and they had to trim it down to the available funds.
According to Tunji-Ojo, "It's just a sheer blackmail. In the 2019 budget that was brought by NDDC, they overstated their revenue profile, they brought a budget of over N400 billion, and they over stated their revenue. For example, statutory transfer from the federal government which is based on the 2019 Appropriation Act was N100 billion, but they used N125 billion instead of N100 billion.
"So you can't spend money that you don't have. What we did was to trim down the budget to the reality of available fund which is about three hundred and forty something billion naira. It is on record that we didn't remove a single project from the budget, and again don't forget that the power of appropriation by our constitution lies in the National Assembly. So the issue of vandalisation of 2019 budget it's not true."
He added: "On the issue that we sat on the 2020 budget, it is on record that immediately we passed the 2019 budget, we wrote to the NDDC to submit the performance report of the 2019 budget, without the budget performance report you cannot do a budget, and you cannot appropriate money without having a performance report because you won't know how much you stated for which project. We wrote to them immediately we passed the 2019 budget, they didn't respond, so we wrote another reminder which they responded and their response was that they cannot access the office because of COVID-19, so how do you expect the National Assembly to pass the budget when you didn't give us performance report which we needed to do the budget?
"As far we are concerned, we are a responsible parliament, and we are responsible to the people of the Niger Delta, so we cannot hold NDDC budget, but a thorough job must be done."