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Is Nigeria Broke? House Questions Finance Minister on Poor Funding

By on November 30, 2012


The Finance Minister Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is to clarify why ministries and agencies are not adequately funded following revelations by the Petroleum Resources Minister Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.

When Madueke appeared before the joint committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives to defend her ministry’s 2013-budget proposal, many questions were asked.

Upstream, Downstream and Gas committees of both the lower and upper chambers were involved in the budget defence.

Madueke told the lawmakers that of N2.2 billion capital appropriation for the ministry’s 2012 budget, only N820 million or 41 per cent was released.

At 93 per cent performance, she said the ministry spent N759 million out of the N820 million.

The lawmakers did not understand and wondered why the funds meant for the ministries for the 2012 appropriation were not been released.

They asked several questions, some, why is there little cash to run the budget? Is Nigeria broke?

Particularly, Senator Danjuma Goje was worried that something must be wrong with the way government releases funds to MDAs.

He said if the petroleum ministry, the “goose that lays the golden egg” has not be given half of what it is supposed to be given for its budget as at November 2012, then it is likely that something is seriously wrong.

In addition, MDAs have been complaining of poor release of funds.

Goje said, “If your ministry that produces the petroleum, which is a major source of income for the country, is being poorly funded, then it is very disappointing and discouraging.

“Is it that you are no longer producing? Is it that what you have produced is not being sold? Or is it that the buyers are refusing to pay for the products?

“I am aware that the crude oil benchmark in the 2012 Appropriation Bill is far lower than the current market price for oil in the international market.

“So if the money is not there to be released to the ministries, like your own for capital projects, where do they get the money they pay into the excess crude account?

“The question is, where is the money? Maybe Nigerians need to ask the Minister of Finance where she kept the country’s money. It is necessary that Nigerians, through the parliament are told where their money is.”

The chairman of the joint committee, Senator Emmanuel Paulker said it was improper and deplorable for only 41 per cent of the ministry’s budget to have been released close to end of November.

Paulker said, “Production of 150 million barrels of crude oil a day is not a mean figure. We don’t see how you can meet up.

“We only have December left for 2012 and that is why we are worried. The Senate has adjourned for one week today to enable Committee Chairmen prepare the 2013 budget for passage before the end of the year. We are not pleased at all.”

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Nkechi Nwaogu, said the Minister of Finance is in charge of funds and she should know why the funds are not been released even to MDAs, adding that the Finance Minister should explain where the money is now that the year is ending.

While speaking to reporters on persistent fuel scarcity, Mrs. Alison-Madueke said, “We will try and ensure that now that verifications in terms of subsidy, the Aig-Imhokuede report has been completed, and payments are beginning to go out to the marketers, you can see already that petrol queues are lessening around the country.

“We will again begin to push…you will recall that before these periods of strikes and fuel subsidy problems, we had ensured that Nigeria was wet all around the country with petrol.

“So, it was not on our instance. There have been issues that all Nigerians know. We cannot eat our cake and have it. If we have exposed issues in the payment of fuel subsidy and manipulations in that system, then it has to be adequately investigated.