Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Rep. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo (APC, Ondo) has accused members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC of resorting to blackmailing the National Assembly to distract attention from the realities within the commission.
Tunji-Ojo who represents Akoko North East/West in the house, was reacting to allegation by the Executive Director, Project of the Interim Management Committee, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh that he removed a N10 billion rice project from the 2019 budget of the commission and replaced it with supplies of chairs to “non-existing schools”.
He said, “I have challenged them to show Nigerians evidence of their claims. It is not just enough to make allegations. I am a core professional and when I speak, I speak with facts. They should show Nigerians facts.”
He denied the allegation that he removed any project from the budget of the commission saying “I have said this before and I am repeating again. No project was removed from the 2019 proposed budget of the NDDC. The Executive Director Project is obviously a confused human being who thinks he can thrive on blackmail against truth will not help anyone.
“I am not going to exchange words with him because, like Comrade Oshiomhole said, you don’t wrestle with pigs. If he thinks the best way to collaborate and work is through falsehood and blackmail that is up to him. However, the truth is sacrosanct; no single project was removed from the budget.
“For the record, when they brought the 2019 budget, they over stated their revenue by over N63 billion. I am certain you understand that appropriation is done in line with the realities of revenue and that is what we have done. It is sad that they keep exposing their incompetence.
“The budget they brought was N409 billion. But in line with the reality of the revenue, we reduced it to about N346 billion. They over stated their revenue profile and we did what is expected of us as an institution by matching the budget with expected revenue; the National Assembly will not manufacture money to cover the deficit? Did Dr. Cairo participate in the budget defence? You know that all the blackmail and mudslinging is just a way of distracting Nigerians from the realities on the ground.
“These same people that are talking have been unable to satisfactorily defend their 2020 budget in the National Assembly. Do they think that blackmail will compensate for incompetence? Blackmail will not solve problems. If they should go through the budget, they will see that no single item was removed. Repeating this same lie shows they do not know what is contained in the budget passed.
“The appropriation was done strictly in line with the realities on ground and that is the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly. So, if somebody is questioning the appropriation power of the National Assembly, then that person is questioning the constitution of Nigeria and the corporate existence of the legislature as an institution.
“How can you say we replaced when no item was removed? Replaced with what? Perhaps they need lessons in grammar. To the best of my knowledge, not a single item was removed from the budget. Did he participate in the budget defence to know what took place?
“I have always said that I don’t want to dignify him with response and I want to maintain that, because doing that would amount to wrestling with a pig in the mud. They probably believe that the only weapon of survival is blackmail. As for me, I will not be intimidated and neither will I succumb to blackmail. I will do my job with integrity bearing in mind my oath of office and allegiance to the people.
“Note that, one essence of appropriation is that you are supposed to defend what you put in the budget. We will not give you money that you will go and misapply or misappropriate. If you are unable to defend your budget, who do you blame for your inadequacies? You are aware, I suppose, that we wrote to them five times before the finally submitted their 2019 budget performance report.
“We asked for budget performance in March and they submitted it late June. Anywhere in the world, that should not take more than 72 hours. If you are not cooking figures, why do you need three months to prepare budget performance?
“On the 14th of July, they finally came to defend the 2020 budget; again, they exposed their incompetence before the whole of us. In their budget performance, they stated that revenue for 2019 was N305 billion while expenditure was N122 billion. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that there will be a balance of N183 billion. That is simple mathematics.
“Unfortunately, they were unable to account for that figure. A whooping N183 billion. They pleaded with the committee for them to go back and redo their budget performance. Since July 14, they never got back. I just received a letter from them today, 20th of August, that they are now ready and that we should give them a date. Why will it take you over a month to reconcile figures?
“In fairness, I am not ready to engage in all these media war. But the simple truth is that people must understand that blackmail cannot take anyone further than where you are supposed to be. If you bring a budget, are you not supposed to have a revenue profile?
“If you bring a budget of N409 billion and your revenue is N346 billion, where are you going to get the balance of the money to fund the remaining project. I employ journalists to investigate, this truth is open.
“Even the forensic they are talking about, when they brought their budget, they did not make provision for it. I was the one who said we must make provision for it. That is why it is in their budget. When you bring a budget and your expenditure is far above your revenue, where do you expect to get the balance to fund the budget?”