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Senate absolves finance minister over insertions

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed

The Senate has absolved the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed of all allegations of insertions in the budgetary provisions of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The Senate Committee on Appropriation gave the clearance when she appeared before it to give clarifications on a series of funds inserted in the proposed N20.51 trillion in the 2023 budget.

Mrs Ahmed told the committee that the sums which some heads of agencies feigned ignorance of were approved by the Federal Executive Council ( FEC) before the budget presentation to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.

” All the proposed budgetary sums, like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the N8.6 billion in the Ministry of Defence, N195.468 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power etc, were all captured before the presentation by Mr President,” she asserted.

According to the minister, “Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of the agencies selected for project execution for the sole purpose of transparency.

“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.”

She stressed that if the heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinization of their approved budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau, representing Kano North, said the committee members were satisfied with the explanations and commended Mrs Ahmed for ensuring transparency in capturing of such loans or grants in the budget.

In a similar development, the Senate Ad – hoc committee on uneven disbursement of N500 billion Development fund by the Development Bank of Nigeria directed the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq to furnish it with names of beneficiaries of different clusters of the Federal Government Social investment programmes.

The lawmakers alleged that the implementation of the Programmes was not transparent based on a lack of records of verifiable beneficiaries.

Hajiya Sadiya told the committee that about 9.8 million pupils nationwide are already benefiting from the School feeding programme at the rate of N100 per meal, aside from beneficiaries of other clusters of the programme.

This explanation was not accepted by the Committee. Consequently, Committee Chairman, Senator Sani Musa, representing Niger East, requested the minister to furnish necessary information about the beneficiaries, like the contact address and telephone numbers on the basis of states, local governments and wards.

Reporting by Amaka Ene; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino and Tony Okerafor