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Will Akpabio’s Role-Reversal Impact Ministry of Niger Delta’s 2024 Budget?

By John Mayaki The election of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the President of the Nigerian Senate has raised questions about the fate of the budget…

By John Mayaki

The election of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the President of the Nigerian Senate has raised questions about the fate of the budget for the Ministry of Niger Delta Development. With the former governor’s extensive experience in governance and his history of advocacy for the Niger Delta region, many are eager to see how this new role — from Minister of Niger Delta Development to President of the Nigerian Senate — will influence the ministry’s financial prospects and the region’s development come the 2024 fiscal year.

A seasoned politician and administrator, we have an “uncommon” Akpabio who hails from Akwa Ibom State, a core part of the Niger Delta region whose tenure as the Minister was marked by advocacy for more substantial budgetary allocations to address the developmental needs of the region when he held sway as the Minister.

The former “uncommon” Minister and now “uncommon” President of the Senate faced a distressing moment in 2020 when he presented the ministry’s 2021 budget proposal to the Senate Committee on Niger Delta. The proposed budget of N26.6 billion for 2021 was seen as inadequate to address the pressing needs of the Niger Delta region.

In 2022, the ministry received a slightly higher budget of N28.1 billion, with allocations for Personnel Costs, Overhead Costs, and Capital. However, the situation in 2023 is alarming, as the Ministry was handed a meager envelope — dealing with a much smaller budget of N10 billion, which is N16.6 billion less than the 2021 budget.

It must be noted that back in 2011, at the inception of the Ministry, it received a more substantial budget allocation of about N50 billion, but even that amount could only cover a limited number of critical road projects. This stark difference raises questions about the decline in budget allocation over the years.

Today, Akpabio’s new position as Senate President provides him with a significant platform to advocate for increased budget allocations to the Niger Delta Development Ministry. Having personally experienced the challenges faced by the ministry during his previous role, he may be more motivated than ever to push for improved funding.

As Senate President, Akpabio will have a direct influence on the budgetary process. He can ensure that the budget proposals for the Niger Delta Development Ministry receive thorough consideration and are aligned with the ministry’s mandate as proposed in the 8 presidential priorities of President Bola Tinubu and the region’s development priorities.

Akpabio’s close ties with his colleagues, such as Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Distinguished Senator Solomon Adeola, and his counterpart in the Green Chamber, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Abubakar Bichi, could lead to collaborative efforts to secure additional funding for the ministry. These partnerships may involve appealing to the presidency and other relevant stakeholders to explore and source budgetary funding for the much-needed infrastructure in the oil-rich region.

This financial constraint has far-reaching consequences. It disrupts vital programs, hinders opportunities for youth and women, causes project delays, and invites disruptions by local youths. It directly impedes the fulfillment of the ministry’s mandate to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the Niger Delta people.

It is imperative that we all must act as advocates for the Niger Delta, unite, and raise our voices. We must call for a substantial change in the budget allocations for the Niger Delta Development Ministry. The Niger Delta’s immense potential must no longer be held hostage by financial limitations.

Stakeholders, from traditional rulers to local communities to government officials, must begin to voice their concerns over this dwindling budgetary allocations and mounting liabilities. We, as advocates, should stand with them and demand additional funding to support the region.

One of the critical strategies to overcome this financial shortfall is active collaboration between the states and the Federal Government. It’s a major task, and it’s one that the current Minister, Hon. Engr. Abubakar Momoh, has undertaken through his visits to the region and discussions with state governors for collaboration and partnerships in addressing the region’s infrastructural deficit.

As advocates for the Niger Delta, good governance and economic justice, we have the power to effect change. It is our duty to raise our voices, call for adequate budget allocations, and promote collaboration to empower the region. Let us be the catalysts for a brighter future, where the Niger Delta flourishes and fulfills its vast potential.

Together, we can make a difference, and Akpabio’s leadership could encourage a more comprehensive approach to addressing the unique challenges facing the region, including environmental concerns, youth engagement, infrastructure development, and economic diversification.

Being the Senate President, he has the potential to bring significant changes to the budget of the Niger Delta Development Ministry. With his personal commitment to the region and the increased influence he wields in his new role, we can expect greater advocacy, oversight, and collaboration to address the developmental challenges in the Niger Delta. As the region watches with hope, Akpabio’s tenure as Senate President could be a turning point for the Niger Delta’s development and prosperity.

John Mayaki is the Country Director, Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa.

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