FG can no longer fund 2016 budget- Kachukwu
As the economic condition in Nigerian slips further the leaders and traditional rulers from the Niger Delta region on Thursday, August 25, tendered a list of their requirement to reinstalling peace and tranquility in the region.
The list presented to the listed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu during a visit by the monarchs encircles cessation of hostilities by the military around the region, reopening of the Maritime University and release of individuals arrested on trumped up charges, among others as conditions for the return to lasting peace in the region.
This was even as the Minister Kachikwu lamented that the Federal Government can no longer fund the 2016 budget, due to the crisis in the region which has led to a significant drop of Nigeria’s crude oil output to about 1.3 million barrels per day, in addition to the falling crude oil price.
Speaking in Abuja during a visit to Kachikwu in Abuja, by traditional rulers, among which is King Jaja of Opobo, His Majesty, Douglas Jaja, the Niger Delta Coastal States’ Monarchs and other stakeholders in the region, called on the Federal Government to urgently appoint or constitute a dialogue to negotiate on its behalf with stakeholders in the Niger Delta region.
In their submission presented by Chief Wellington Okirika, the Bolowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, the monarchs listed other conditions to include, “The release of the ten innocent school children arrested by the Nigerian Army on the 28th of May, 2016, in Oporoza and others in detention on trumped up charges.
“Return of the Golden Sword, being the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu traditional institution; return of the three tradition council speed boats in custody of the Nigerian Army; cessation of hostilities perpetrated by the military in the Niger Delta region.
“Equally important, the Federal Government should make a categorical statement about the opening of the Maritime University – Okerenkoko, Delta State for academic activities in the 2016/2017 session.”
In his response, Kachikwu stated that the ceasefire agreement reached with some of the militants should be honoured by all and sundry, noting that there is a limit to the Federal Government, allowing the attack of national assets.
He stated that the solution to the Niger Delta crisis is not through force of arms, either from militants or from the military, declaring that the issue of the region has left the citadel of the brutality of militancy to consistent dialogue and negotiation.
He said the ceasefire must stay, noting that if peace is not allowed to reign, it would be difficult to hold back the military from their task of safeguarding national assets.
He, however, stated that stakeholders must be able to separate criminality from people interested in genuinely fighting for the cause of the Niger Delta.
“Please help me reach out to those who have not supported one way or the other, this ceasefire; that this ceasefire must stay. Without that, it would be difficult to stop the military from protecting the assets of the country. So far, there has been a lot of effort to keep that down. So far the military is showing a lot of reasoning. The president has been able to hold them back; he has said, ‘hold on, let us keep talking.’
“As long as we can engage and talk frankly, and hold back the military forces and militant or whatever, we can find solutions,” he appealed.
Kachikwu disclosed that over $40 billion has been put into the Niger Delta region, both by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, from the Derivation principle and oil companies’ investment, while he bemoaned the fact that during his visit to the creeks and other areas in the region, there were no infrastructures to relay such investment.
He said, “In the course of all these analysis, if you look at the amount of money that has been put into the Niger Delta over the last 10 years, in total, it is over $40 billion. This has come from NDDC, it has come from Derivation, and it has come from oil companies’ investment.
But as I go to the creeks, I have seen no single infrastructure that you can point to that this is the result of this investment.
“What this means is that we must begin to do some soul-searching ourselves; where did all these money go to? Who took them? What were they applied for? What are the roles of our own people and others?”
“Because, unless we solve the governance and transparency issues in terms of spending this money, it doesn’t matter how much money you put into the place, you are going to go back to square one.”
He revealed that there is a lot of interest, both by governments and private companies, to invest in the region, but a lot more work needed to be done, while some fundamental issues needed to be addressed before the region can move forward.
He explained that the country is presently passing through very tough conditions, as the sharp drop in crude oil output and low oil price has brought about a 60 per cent decline in the country’s revenue and made it impossible for the Federal Government to fund the 2016 budget.
He said, “Let us not forget that we are presently passing through very grave circumstances in Nigeria. Oil that was at a time on an average of $120 per barrel, today, is down to about $42. That $42 continued to be threatened.
“The price continues to struggles. What that means is that looking at the price element alone, the Federal Government has lost over 50 per cent of its income, so also the states. As if that was not bad enough, the militancy itself has brought down production from an average of 2.2 million barrels per day, to today, about 1.4 million. And if I consider what I am saying here today, we are probably looking at 1.3 million barrels.
“What it means again, is when you take the cumulative effect of pricing and volume, you are down to more than 60 per cent drop on the income of this country. You cannot even fund the 2016 budget. If you can’t fund the budget, government do not get money, salaries do not get paid, infrastructures cannot be delivered, development cannot happen.
“So, at the end of the day, the person who pays the biggest price of militancy is the Niger Delta itself. The person, who pays the biggest price for pollution, is the Niger Delta itself. The person, who pays the biggest price security imperative and loss of security, is the Niger Delta itself. So either which way you look, the Niger Delta gets drawn back by these series of activities.”