2016 Budget: 386 ‘Strange’ Projects Worth N12.6bn Discovered In Agric Ministry’s Votes
Just when Nigerians are hoping that the row over the 2016 budget will soon come to an end with the consultation currently ongoing between the presidency and the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh and his team have discovered 386 “strange” projects worth N12.6billion in the ministry’s proposals. They were reportedly inserted by the National Assembly.
The projects were smuggled into the ministry’s plan after its N40.918 billion budget proposalý had been reduced to N31.618billion.
Besides the ministry’s initial N40.918 billion budget proposal that was reduced to N31.618 billion by the National Assembly, the lawmakers allegedly also inserted fresh 386 projects worth N12.6 billion.
There were strong indications last night that the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma might brief President Muhammadu Buhari today.
It was also learnt yesterday that Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal may today meet with ministers over the impasse.
Ogbeh and his team were shocked by the mutilation of the ministry’s budget, a source said.
There were fears that the insertion of the strange projects might affect Buhari’s plans to diversify the economy.
About three projects unconnected with the agriculture sector have been included in the ministry’s projects.
These border on erosion control in Federal University, Kashere, Kwadon and Garin Alhaji at N200 million, N100 million and N45 million.
A top source said: ‘’In the Agric sector, 386 projects were inserted, which totalled about N12.6 billion.
‘“While N5.3 billion of the main ministry’s budget is taken away, about N7.2 billion is infused into almost 40 agencies and parastatals of the agric ministry.”
Other smuggled projects are provision of 58 boreholes for 29 rural communities and an additional 50 for 50 rural communities in the sum of N175 million and N150.4 million. “Curiously, the communities are not named”, the source said, adding:
“Similarly, of the N90 million allocated to the Cocoa Research Institute in Ibadan, various sums are allotted the following ýof the seven sub-heads: provision of rubber seeds and seedling in Igbotako, Okitipupa, (N5m), training and empowerment of youths in poultry farming in Oluyole, Ibadan(N20m) and provision of cassava processing plant in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State(N10m)
“Of the four sub-heads under the Rubber Research Institute, Benin, two areas are equally outside the focus of rubber. These are training and empowerment of youth and women in fish farming in Ndokwa, Delta State as well as fabrication and installation of cassava processing machines in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State at N10m and N20m.
“ Also, N1 billion was allocated to two projects in Kwara South Senatorial District, including the construction of rural roads for N700 million as well as empowerment of women and youths in agricultural products for N300 million.”
A member of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee said the 386 projects were injected without the knowledge of the committee’s ,members.
‘’We are happy that ýthe Speaker hinted that the issue of the budget will be revisited this week. But what some of us want is the understanding of Nigerians on this matter.
‘’The issue of this controversial budget has to be carefully done this time around because some persons who think they were smarter had already led the entire parliament into collisioný with the executive and indeed Nigerians.
‘’They have done this by inserting projects without the knowledge of others either in the appropriation or relevant sectoral committees and presenting same as the collective decision of the house or the entire parliament.
‘’To the best of my knowledge, as a member of both the appropriation and agriculture committees in the House of Representatives, I did know that we reduced the ministry’s N40.9 billion proposal by about N9.3 billion.
‘’But the surprise here is that while a decision was not taken where to infuse the reduced sum, some of us were surprised to see that so many projects were passed on to the President for assent, which he declined.
‘’The implication is that if the President did not insist on details, most National Assembly members would not have had the opportunity to know what went behind them.”
There were strong indications yesterday that the Minister of Budget and National Planning might brief President Buhari today.
A top source said: “I know that Udoma will meet with the President today as part of a debriefing session on the 2016 budget.
“Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, may meet with ministers on Monday over the impasse.
“All these consultations will guide the President on what he should do. The options are to return the budget to the National Assembly for a review of the details with a new timeline; withholding of assent; and to sign the budget into law with a Supplementary Budget later to fill in the gaps.”