The Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu, has blamed the lack of seriousness on the part of federal government in fighting piracy and oil theft as result of poor funding of the Nigerian Navy, particularly the capital projects.
Anyanwu stated this yesterday during the visit of the Senate Committee on Navy to discuss the implementation of the 2013 appropriation budget by the armed service.
Speaking on behalf of the committee, she commended the budget performance of the Navy for the year but decried the inadequate release of funds for the capital projects.
According to her, the approximate sum of N8 billion being released out of the total sum of N14 billion, representing 55.8 per cent of the capital budget is far below the average figures for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
She said: “We have just gone through the budget performance for the year 2013. And we have been fully briefed by the Chief of Naval Staff and his men and we are very pleased to hear that quite a bit of progress has been made. He has explained that there is an area of great concern to us and that is the area of capital projects where the budget releases fall far short of what we know to be the average in both the armed forces and in the MDAs.
“The capital released so far amounts to only 55.8 percent of what they need. And that is not even enough to deal with one of the major capital items, the funding of the Off-Shore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). We are very unhappy about it. And we want the Ministry of Finance to ensure that our obligation to the clients with regard to this OPVs are met because if we fail in the payment schedule then it lead us to failure in terms of the project.
“We are not also very happy that major areas like the development of the jetties and purchase of a helicopter which was in fact put in the budget as a replacement of the one that crashed has left a vacuum in the operations last year.”
Anyanwu said it was hypocritical on the part of the federal government to complain of the failure to tackle piracy and oil theft, while denying Navy the needed fund to procure the required instruments to do the job.
She warned that if the trends continues it could amount to limiting the capacity of the Nigerian Navy to function or putting them out of work altogether.
According to her, “it doesn't make sense to constantly complaining about the failure of the Navy to avert the massive theft of our oil resources when in fact you (federal government) are shooting them in the foot.
“You are arm stringing them, you are not giving them the resources, you are not funding their projects. If they don't have the vessels, they can't work on water, if they don't have the money to even put fuel in existing vessels, they cannot do miracles. So we have to see the ripple effect of the tardiness in releasing their funds. What it comes up to is that at the end of the day you are making it impossible for them to do the work, and there is no need complaining. So, this is what it is.”
“… I really don't understand what is going on. Every time all I get is that navy is not doing this, navy is not fighting piracy, navy is not fighting oil theft, and we are losing enormous resources through this means and yet navy is like tied down, you are not releasing funds to accelerate the acquisition of the right platforms, you are not doing that.
“You have released only 55.8 per cent of capital and you have also made them miss the milestone in payment for the largest vessel that they are buying, which is the one that can go far into the sea and if we miss it, what will ensue is that all the money that they pay before may just go down the drain and we don't want failed projects like that,” she warned.
“So, I think that it is an emergency, in fact I am alarmed by what I understand may happen, this week or next week, the president is going to be presenting the 2014 budget. I am alarmed by what is going to happen because of this projects are not funded in 2013 and then they are not funded in 2014, then we might as well forget everything about the Navy. I don’t know if they want to have a navy because if we cannot fund those capital projects, then navy cannot function.”
Earlier, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Dele Ezeoba, who commended the Senate Committee for the oversight visit, said the interaction was helpful in addressing the needs of the Navy.
In the same vein, the Naval Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, called on the federal government to effect the release the outstanding sum of N6 billion needed to execute some of the capital projects like the acquisition of two OPVs (N10 billion), development of jetties (N1.9billion), purchase of ship spare parts (N116million), helicopter spare parts (N292 million), procurement of Augista Helicopter (N1 billion), and kitting of naval personnel (N226 million).
Ogbor, who noted that the implementation of the 2013 budget had been successful in the overhead and personnel expenditure, said: “However little has been done in the critical area of capital projects.”