The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said allegations of budget padding of projects and allocations in the 2023 Appropriations Bill made no sense.
She stated this during her presentation before the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, while appearing before the Senate Committee on Special Duties on November 21, 2022, for budget defense, blamed the finance ministry for adding N206bn to the ministry’s budget.
Farouq had claimed that the ministry requested some projects for the North-East Development Commission and the National Social Safety Net Project in the 2022 budget, which were not released, but was surprised to see an inflated amount in the 2023 budget of the ministry.
Consequently, the House invited the finance minister to respond to six queries concerning the budgets of various ministries, departments, and agencies.
The issues were the National Social Safety Nets Project, allocated N206,242,395,000 under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development; the refurbishment and procurement of Harris RF-5/7800 Military Communication Equipment at a cost of N8,600,000,000; and the Safe Schools Initiative, allocated N2,250,000,000, both under the Ministry of Defense.
Another is on the Second Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact Project, a project coded ERGP30180290, to be financed by the World Bank, domiciled under the Federal Ministry of Education, for a loan of $30 million (the equivalent of N12,304,500,000 at an exchange rate of N410.15 to a dollar).
In her presentation, Ahmed said, “The 2023 budget proposal has been prepared with the utmost sincerity of purpose and in line with established regulations and procedures.” Over the past week, there has been a lot of misinformation in the media regarding certain provisions in the 2023 budget, which totals $N423 billion. The expenditures mostly relate to provisions for multilateral and bilateral loan-funded projects.
“It is instructive that all these projects, now the subject of controversy, were included in the budgets of these MDAs, which were transmitted to the supervising ministers for their review and feedback on October 4, 2022, before the presentation to both the FEC and NASS. Until these recent controversies, none of the concerned MDAs raised any issues on the projects with the FMFBNP.”
The minister concluded, “The current issues would have been easily clarified between the respective MDAs and the FMFBNP had the affected agencies followed the established budget processes.” The proposed 2023 budget for each ministry was circulated for review and feedback and then presented at the Federal Executive Council before it was submitted to the NASS by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ahmed stated, “Finally, let me state clearly that the allegation that the FMNBNP “padded” the budgets of the affected MDAs by inserting the projects in question makes absolutely no sense.” If the projects are in the budgets of these MDAs, the FMBNP cannot procure them, as their procurement can only be handled by the concerned MDAs.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, however, pointed out that Farouq did not accuse her finance ministry counterpart of padding the budget, saying the media dwelled on the comments made by senators at the session.
The chairman of the committee, Aliyu Betara, in his closing remarks, said the lawmakers were satisfied with the explanations of the finance minister.
While overruling a motion seeking to summon Farouq, he noted that the Minister of Defense, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd.), who had been invited on the same matter, might not appear before the lawmakers again.
Several members of the committee criticised Farouq for usually shunning summons by National Assembly committees, especially those overseeing her ministry.
Betara said, “So, PS (of the humanitarian ministry), please tell your minister, it is not even about the appropriation committee inviting her; she has issues with her committees in the House.” Most times they invite her, but she does not come to appear before the committee. So, it is wrong. If she is not ready for the job, let her quit. The chairmen are complaining. In our report now, they could not submit a report for the humanitarian ministry. So, PS, talk to her.”
The Deputy Chairman, Iduma Igariwey, warned that Nigeria could have a bad image in the international community as the country had deals with global financial bodies.