The Senate yesterday approved a total sum of N241 billion as the 2016 Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) budget.
However, the Upper Chamber adjourned plenary for three weeks and to resume on July 12th, 2016.
In passing the budget, the Senate reduced the N260, 064,000,000 budget of the commission submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to N241, 114,000,000.
The budget slash was in the area of development projects. The President had proposed N231, 224,000,000 but the Upper Chamber cut it to N212, 274,000,000.
Breakdown of the budget showed that Personnel Expenditure N17, 560,518,930, Overhead Expenditure N9, 980,000,000 and Internal Capital Expenditure N1, 300,000,000.
Presenting the report of his committee on the budget, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi said the slash represents 8.20 percent.
He said, “The adjustments were made only in the capital projects amounting to 8.20 percent cut across the states and regional and did not affect the recurrent expenditure.”
In his remarks, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stressed the need for the full implementation of the budget to alleviate the sufferings of the people of the region.
The Senate also condemned the reduction of MTN’s fine from N1.04 trillion to N780 billion. Accordingly, the Senate directed its Committee on Communications to invite all the stakeholders, including the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Accountant General of the Federation, Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) Godwin Emefiele, Managing Director, MTN Nigeria Limited Mr. Rob Shuter and all other parties involved in the negotiations to shed light on the matter, especially whether the reduction was in accordance with the regulations of the NCC governing fines and penalties.
It also urged the Federal Government to move the initial amount of N50 billion from the CBN Recovery Account to the CBN/NCC Treasury Single Account (TSA).
Besides, Chairman Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji raised a point of order that Section 19 and 20 of 2011 Act of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has been blatantly breached, since it was not within their powers to reduce the fine without involving the appropriate agency of government, which they have done.
He explained that the fine, which was as a result of MTN’s failure to deactivate about 5.2 million unregistered subscribers, was initially reduced from N1.04trillion to N780billion.
He alleged that public officers (of government) purportedly held private meetings with MTN and went out of their way to reduce the amount to N330billion without the input of NCC.
Nnaji expressed the fear that “Nigeria has been shortchanged in this whole process of account of the ridiculous settlement payment plan coupled with the disparity in the exchange rate regime when the fine was imposed ab initio compared with the prevailing exchange rate where the value of naira is taking a downward slide.
“As representatives of the Nigerian people, we are saddened about this development, coming at a time when the Nigerian economy needs all the available capital infusion to bolster it.
“Actions taken by these officers has whittled down powers of the NCC with a negative impression of a weakling statutes where any individual or firms can take the nation for granted.”
In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki asked the committee to report back in two weeks.