Lawmakers summon finance minister over budget funding

  • Wed, 20 Oct 2010 19:07:00 -0600 - 234Next
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The House of Representatives has ordered the minister of finance, Olusegun Aganga, to appear before it today to explain why funding for capital projects has averaged only 30%, barely two months to the end of the year.

The lawmakers said Mr. Aganga must offer the explanations before general session of the House and not a specific committee as is usually the case.

Ahead of elections next year, lawmakers desperate to showcase their achievements to the electorate are complaining that the federal government's implementation of capital budget has again failed due to poor funding by the ministry of finance.

"All road contracts from Bauchi to Owerri have been suspended because the contractors have not been paid," said Mohammed Ndume, the House minority leader, who moved the motion yesterday.

"By the time our people ask which projects were attracted to our areas, what are we going to say? These projects are not there, and if they are there, they have been stopped and yet our salaries are not stopped. The salaries of the presidency have not been stopped."

Members said according to figures from offices in charge of various projects, while funding for the huge recurrent expenditure which annually saps federal revenues have remained atop 70%, those for the capital projects stay between 10% and 30%.

Mr. Aganga is said to have confirmed the amount to the lawmakers, acknowledging that N3.2 trillion has been released for recurrent expenditure so far out of the total N4.6trillion budget.

"We here at the legislature, the executive and the presidency, are the only ones affected by the releases so far," Mr. Ndume said.

The figures sparked outrage amongst members who condemned government's low spending on developmental projects, and admitted that the criticisms have become routine yearly.

The House voted to refuse approval for next year's budget, until the previous proposals have been satisfactorily executed.

"Since 2003 that I have been in this house, every year we complain about budget implementation. Can the federal government tell us why we need to bring this issue every year? Are we serving Nigeria or are we serving ourselves?" asked Samson Positive, who represents Kogi State.

Falling federal revenue

At $67 per barrel of crude oil benchmark approved for this year's budget, and an unstable oil production in the Niger Delta, the federal government has complained about a falling funding and has stated its difficulty in implementing projects inserted into the budget by lawmakers during appropriation.

In separate letters to the lawmakers, President Goodluck Jonathan has argued for a revision of the benchmark and alternative sourcing of funds. The chairman House committee of Finance, John Enoh, supported that claim yesterday and staged a lone walk out after failing to dissuade his colleagues from taking a hard-line position against the executive. He said based several interactions with Mr. Aganga, his committee has confirmed that various revenues targets of the FG have not been met.

"The daily oil production quotas have not been reached in spite of the amnesty. It is expected that it will take a while for government to fully reach benefit from the programme," he said.

Current production is said to be at 2.25million barrels a day.

In approving the order to suspend further appropriations, and to summon the Finance minister, the deputy speaker, Usman Nafada, said the benchmark for the budget was reached after a petroleum minister, assured the National Assembly that government can "comfortably" produce 2.35million barrels a day against 2.4 million proposed by the lawmakers.

"For them to now come and say they cannot produce that is simply unacceptable," Mr. Nafada said. He said however, if there were shortfalls, the over $15 differential currently derived as excess sales per barrel should cover for the falling mark.

"Oil is selling now for over $80 per barrel that should take care of the shortfall. If they cannot implement the capital, they should not implement the recurrent, you should not pay salaries."

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