Supervising Minister for Niger Delta Ministry, Mr. Darius Ishaku, friday told Senate Committee on Niger Delta to perish thoughts of the completion of East – West Road in 2014.
Ishaku who made this blunt statement while defending this year’s budget of the ministry in National Assembly, said earlier promise by immediate past Minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, that the project would be delivered in December was now a tall dream.
Orubebe had told the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) before his sack, that with N113 billion, the ministry would deliver the project in December.
However, Ishaku told Niger Delta Committee yesterday that with only N42 billion as total allocation to the ministry in 2014 budget, hope of its completion this year was like asking for the moon, adding that nothing less than N111 billion would be required for the delivery as planned.
“You questioned the fact that we had earlier on promised that we would deliver this East – West Road by December 2014. I once again want to reiterate that we cannot complete it as earlier promised due to the funding gap. We had earlier on hoped that there would be some funding. In 2013, we had hoped that we would bridge the gap by getting more funds.
“We got some funding from SURE-P far more than the budgetary allocation. But it still was not as anticipated. We got some funding from (Agricultural Development Bank) ADB but it still was not as expected. SURE-P funded us more than the first line budget. We still have some shortfall. And because of that shortfall, we will not be able to commission this project by December 2014 as earlier anticipated unless there is sufficient funding. And that funding has to come immediately and soonest because you are talking of the time of construction.
“It does not matter, the disbursement has to come much earlier than the completion. Particularly, we are talking about the Niger Delta region where the wet season lasts longer than the dry season. So, if you are giving me funds during the peak of the rainy season, it will still not be utilised until I get another dry season.
“Last year, it was N62 billion, the percentage disbursement was about 49 per cent. Now, we are on about N42 billion. That is about N20 billion less than last year’s and the release also is a problem. Our promise of completion by December was made based on last year’s budget and the budget we did last year, the release was 49 per cent.
“We are short of N111 billion. We have accessed N238 billion. N238 billion has been paid. I will give the details to the committee,” he submitted.
Responding, Chairman of the committee, Senator James Manager, regretted that funding of the ministry had continued to dwindle from year to year as he recalled that upon the creation of the ministry in 2008, N144 billion was allocated to it.
He however, lambasted the ministry for failing to commission a single project since its creation over five years ago as he called on every well meaning individual to come to the aid of the ministry with a view to getting the project completed without further delay.
“We have to do all we can to rescue the ministry because it is terribly underfunded. And don’t forget that this ministry was created as a child of necessity. That point must be emphasised so that we do not get back to where we are coming from. And therefore, whatever we are doing as far as this ministry is concerned, we must be serious minded.
“Therefore, you must appreciate the fact that the East – West Road is the flagship of the Niger Delta Ministry because it is very important to the region and Nigeria in general. So, we want to know the areas to assist the Ministry because when we do so, we are assisting Nigeria and the Niger Delta people,” he said.