By Ignatius Ushie
The Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Marine Transport yesterday queried the inconsistencies in the 2020 budget of the Federal Ministry of Transportation presented to the Committee.
Deputy Chairman of the House Committee, Jarigbe Agom-Jarigbe, questioned the reasons behind the inconsistent line items in the Ministry’s budget at its budget defence session.
He discovered that the Ministry of Transportation had budgeted a line item earmarked ERGP27192753 for construction of National Freight Office at Idiroko Ogun State, and queried the N4,00, 000.000.00 allocated in the budget for it.
The Chairman of the Committee also observed that most of the projects tagged on-going in the 2019 budget of the Ministry were never in existence before 2019 having perused through previous budgets.
He further queried the Ministry’s budget line item ERGP1111997 of the National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA for the acquisition of Barges and Vessels at N1,000,000.00 in the 2019 budget also captured as on-going but was not provided for in 2018 Appropriation Act.
Agom-Jarigbe observed that in the 2020 proposed budget by the Agency, the budget is N2.7 billion and also discovered the previous line item ERGP1114538 which is for procurement of Dredger and other related equipment/vessels which had been allocated N1.5 billion in the 2020 budget.
The Lawmaker called for a thorough investigation of the Ministry of Transportation’s budgeting process, insisting that it meant that someone sits somewhere and manufactures figures for the Ministry.
Similarly, the House of Representatives has raised an alarm over the poor funding of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA despite its critical role in national development.
Chairman, House Committee on Narcotics, Francis Agbo who raised the alarm at the inaugural meeting of the Committee in Abuja assured that the 9th National Assembly would do everything humanly possible to redress the situation, adding that he was already working on a bill for the agency’s autonomy.
Agbo lamented that the NDLEA established since 1989 and saddled with the responsibility of tracing, arresting and prosecution of drug offenders was still in infancy in all the states of the federation.
He disclosed that the personnel cost of the agency presently stood at N8 billion which he said took a large chunk of the annual budget of the agency while only about N200m was meant for its operations.
“As at today, such an all-important agency is being underfunded, the agency lives on charity, for the whole, it has only eight sniffer dogs for its operations and the dogs were even donated to the country by the German government.
“It has gotten to such a pathetic situation that its staff deployment is two staff to local government and it has only a vehicle to cover six local governments,” he said.
He noted that “While the agency is fighting drug wars with analogue weapons used during the civil war, the traffickers are using modern and sophisticated weapons to boost their illicit trade”.
“Most of the multifaceted problems we are facing today as a country such as kidnapping, armed robbery, human trafficking, violent crime of all kinds and what have you, are all side effects of drugs.
“So, as a Nation, nobody will take us seriously on our seriousness in the war against drugs. The youths who are the leaders of tomorrow are now neck-deep in drugs, we must rise against this challenge and arrest the menace to secure the future of our country,” Agbo decried.