BY OBUTE JAMES
The joint National Assembly Committee on National Population and National Identity led by Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi has suspended the budget Defence of National Population Commission for lack of clarity in the documents containing the summary of 2016 budget performance and 2017 budget proposal.
Senator Hunkuyi said it will be difficult for the joint Committee to continue with the commission on their budget defence with conflicting documents which the management was unable to explain.
On Monday February 20, the two government agencies namely National Population Commission and National Identity Management Commission appeared before the joint session of the Senate and House Committee on National Population and National Identity.
While NPC appeared before the committee by 2pm, NIMC was expected to appear before the lawmakers by 4pm, but the controversies surrounding the NPC budget proposal made NIMC to come up very late.
One of the issue that angered the Hunkuyi led committee comprising of over 15 lawmakers in attendance was the inability of NPC management to complete its headquarters building after 100% payment.
The original amount budgeted for the building was N2.3 billion. NPC management has received the entire N2.3 billion but it was observed that the building is yet to reach 30% completion.
The Chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Duruiheoma had explained that the NPC headquarters which was awarded in 2006 at N2.3 billion had reached 75% completion and needed additional N1.7 billion to complete it.
However, the lawmakers said what they saw as the building of NPC in Mabuchi, Abuja during the Oversight visit to the site is not more than 30% completion.
Senator Garba Marafa, a member of the committee requested for explanation of how N1.7 billion will be used to complete a project that has reached 75% completion and has N2.3 billion as original amount of the contract which had been dully paid.
Duruiheoma further infuriated the legislators when in response to enquiry by Senator Marafa whether the Federal Executive Council approved the additional N1.7 billion he indicated in the NPC budget proposal. Duruiheoma said FEC had not given approval yet.
After the presentation of the summary of the 2016 budget performance, Duruiheoma, the NPC Chairman was asked to present 2017 budget proposal of the commission. It was at this point, Duruiheoma requested for the permission of the Director of Finance to present the budget on his permission.
Hunkuyi permitted the DFA to present the 2017 budget proposal as requested by Duruiheoma, but the drama set in when the Director of Finance said he may have difficulty in presenting the budget because he just resumed in that capacity.
To worsen the problem, why some of the document presented to lawmakers had N5 billion as personnel cost for 2017, other documents which the same NPC submitted to them had about N7 billion as personnel cost for 2017 budget. Non of the management team was able to explain the disparity in the two documents thereby infuriating the committee members.
It was at this point Senator Hunkuyi after seeking the opinions of the members of the joint Senate Committee and House of Representatives on National Population and National Identity suspended the budget defence and told Duruiheoma and his management team to go and put their documents in order.
The committee could also not clear the National Identity Management Commission over their 2017 budget proposal. Though this was not because of any observed controversy, but their budget defence was postponed as a result of electricity failure in the venue of meeting in National Assembly.