The Federal Government is planning to spend a total of N305 billion to execute projects in the Niger Delta and run interventionist agencies for the region this year, an analysis of the 2012 budget has shown.
At least 29.6 per cent of region-based Federal projects for the year, valued at about N116.5 billion, will go to the six South-south states which are among the nine Niger Delta states, according to an analysis by a House of Representatives caucus.
In addition to this, the Niger Delta region will benefit from a number of other the Federal allocations through the interventionist ministry, the NDDC agency and the Amnesty programme to the tune of about N189 billion.
Out of this figure, the Niger Delta Development Commission will get a statutory transfer of N54.69 billion, the Ministry of Niger Delta will receive nearly N60 billion and N74 billion has been budgeted for the Amnesty programme for ex-militants.The six South-south states are Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Cross River and Akwa Ibom. These six states together with three other oil producing states—Abia, Ondo and Imo—are considered to constitute the Niger Delta.
In addition to the 2012 Federal funds budgeted for the region, the six South-south states have also announced separate budgets totalling N1.74 trillion for a combined population of 21 million people.
President Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, with a population of 1.7million, has budgeted N228 billion this year.
Rivers State, with 5.1 million people, budgeted N438 billion; Delta with 4.1 million budgeted N383.39 billion; Akwa Ibom with 3.9million budgeted N397.1 billion; Cross Rivers with 2.8 million people budgeted N144.6 billion; and Edo with 3.2 million people budgeted N150.9bn.
This year’s Federal and state budgets in the Niger Delta region followed more or less a similar pattern to what the region received in recent years, according to figures from the Federal Ministry of Finance documents.
Findings revealed that from 2008 to 2011, the NDDC received a total sum of N192 billion from the Federal budget, as follows: N41 billion in 2008, N51 billion in 2009, N45 billion in 2010 and N56 billion in 2011.
For its part, the Ministry of Niger Delta received a total of N181 billion from 2009 to 2011, allocated as follows: N97 billion in 2009, N46 billion in 2010 and N39 billion in 2011.
The Niger Delta Amnesty Program got a total of N127 billion from 2009 to 2011. Of that amount, N3 billion was spent in 2009 as the program’s take-off grant; N30 billion and N96 billion was spent respectively in 2010 and 2011 as stipends and feeding for ex-militants.
According to the analysis by the House of Representatives’ Northern Caucus, whereas the Southsouth is allocated projects valued at N116.5 billion in the 2012 Federal capital budget, other regions of the country are allocated as follows: North-Central, N63.9 billion; Northeast, N40.9 billion; Northwest, N57 billion; Southeast, N49 billion; and Southwest, N65.5 billion.
‘Nothing to show for the huge budgets’
In a reaction, Chief Nengi James, former acting President of the Ijaw Youth Council and chairman of the Oil and Gas Committee of Nembe Kingdom, said there is nothing to celebrate about the huge budgets for the Niger Delta.
“Budgeting is one issue and physically bringing the projects on ground is quite another. We have seen several fantastic budgets in the past but without anything put in place by the authorities,” he told Daily Trust by telephone from Yenagoa yesterday.
He said people of “Niger Delta have never been lucky to see these huge budgets translated into meaningful and developmental projects on ground. They are simply paper works and they simply end on paper.”
James, who is also the Executive Secretary of Niger Delta Development Monitoring and Corporate Watch, described the projects listed for execution as “white elephants projects that can’t see the light of the day.”
“We have been having billions of naira budgets in the past but without anything to show for them. The reality is that these huge budgets are mere conduits for stealing public funds. If budgeting money is anything to rely upon, then the Niger Delta region would have been the most developed part of the country. But look at what is happening now? We have nothing, absolutely nothing.
“Look at the East-West Road awarded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo; nothing has been done over eight years after contract has been awarded. As I am talking to you now, that part of the road that passes through Bayelsa State, which is Ndiama-Kolokoma road, is still not done. In fact, the only thing that has been done so far on that is only a bridge eight years after it has been awarded by Obasanjo,” James said.
He added: “The problem is corruption. It is not about what each region gets, it is about what is put on ground for the overall good of the society…. Whatever is allocated to the region will be ultimately stolen by the politicians.”
Also speaking to Daily Trust by telephone, Port Harcourt-based activist and head, Community Action/Resource Centre, Social Action Nigeria, AkpoBari Celestine, said the huge funds allocated to the region were a political game plan towards 2015.
“There is no need for the Niger Delta people to jump into the streets and celebrate. We have had huge budgets like these but they have not translated into better schools, hospitals, roads for the people of the Niger Delta,” he said.
“It is the same old song. We have the NDDC and the Niger Delta ministry collecting huge sums of money without anything to show for it… budgets are annual rituals and we can’t celebrate until we see these projects on ground.”
AkpoBari said “NDDC’s annual budget is bigger than the budgets of three African countries. What do we have now? Nothing! Despite these huge budgets announced in the media, our schools, hospitals, roads, among other social amenities are in terrible shape. So, this huge sums of money allocated to the Niger Delta is a political thing. The politicians, as usual, are targeting 2015 elections. That is all”.