The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, on Monday said it was share misrepresentation of fact to say that newsmen were not allowed to cover the budget defence sessions going on at the National Assembly.
Concise News reports that Lawan, in a statement by his Spokesperson, Ola Awoniyi, was reacting to report published in some dailies recently that the media were shut out of the coverage of the budget defence at the various senate committees.
“There is no shut out of the press from what we do.
“We need the press to tell Nigerians what we are doing. You (journalists) are our friends. That was a misunderstanding of what happened,” Lawan said.
The senate president said it should be expected that newsmen, at some point, might be excused from such meetings when sensitive issues that bother on national security were being discussed.
“I want to assure Nigerians that whatever we do in this Senate and indeed in this National Assembly is in the best interest of Nigeria.
“We will not compromise on anything as far as the national interest is concerned,” Lawan said.
Senate rejects Niger Delta Ministry’s budget
In related news, the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, on Monday, rejected the 2020 capital budget of N23 billion for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs due to uncompleted projects in the region.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi made this known when the Minister, God’swill Akpabio appeared before the committee to defend the ministry’s budget of N25, 910,486,285.
The ministry is to reappear before the Committee on Monday, October 28.
Nwaboshi said that with the oversight function carried out in the ministry, it was realised that the bane of the ministry was abandoned projects littered all over the nine Niger Delta states.
“There is no state, I dare to say that there is no local government where there is no abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.
“We cannot continue like that. With all the abandoned projects in the Niger Delta and we are talking about new projects; these new projects are designed to fail,” he said.
“Honourable minister, we need to look at this budget again and we expect you to do your cleanup because the document we needed were not supplied to us.”
Senator Sandy Ojang (PDP-Cross River) said: “we just looked at the presentation and we are faced again with the vanity of having a budget and almost through the budget year, there are no capital release.
“It calls for concern and deep worry. A budget situation where the capital outlay is even lower than personnel and other cost is problem.
“But to speak of a situation where nothing is released for capital is tragedy,” Ojang said.
He called for a collective effort by the legislature and the executive to ensure putting in place a credible budget document.
The minister, Akpabio said that in 2019, N35.2 billion and N877 million were allocated to the Ministry of Niger Delta for Capital and Overhead Expenditure.
He decried that out of the capital appropriation of N35.2 billion, no fund had been received for capital projects.
“A total budget of N25.9 billion was allocated to the ministry, personnel; N1,14 billion overhead; N877 million and capital N23.8 billion.”
While reacting to the rejection of the budget by the committee, Akpabio said that the budget “was not rejected.
“The senators feel that there ought to be completion of major projects that are already in the Niger Delta.
“I agree with them but unfortunately, we are working under a very tight envelope.
“The ministry was allocated the sum of about N23 billion and 60 per cent of it will go to already existing projects in the region and so 40 per cent will go to probably new projects in the region.
“So if you look at it very well, it is not possible for you to capture all projects with that amount and it is not even going to be possible to complete even 10 kilometers of road in the region.
“So I think instead of saying that the budget was rejected, I think that the distinguished senators should collectively make an appeal to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to improve upon the envelope to expand it a little.”
This, the minister said could help to capture substantially most of the yearnings and aspirations of the good people of the Niger Delta.