Journalism of Courage

Madam Minister, Quit Now, Federal Lawmakers Squeal

Persecondnews had reported last week that some ministers -- Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Defence -- had accused Finance Minister of inserting or padding their ministries' budget to the tune of N206 billion.

Following defiant refusal by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajiya Sadiya Farouk, to appear before it, the House of Representatives has asked her to quit her job.

The livid lawmakers could not hide their frustrations and disappointment for the minister’s impudence by incessantly failing to appear before various Committees of the House to defend the ministry’s 2023 budget proposal.

The minister should resign if she is not ready for the job, the representatives demanded.

Persecondnews had reported last week that some ministers — Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Defence — had accused Finance Minister of inserting or padding their ministries’ budget to the tune of N206 billion.

Rep. Muktar Betara, the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, made the declaration during an investigative hearing on alleged budget “insertion” or padding of N206 billion in the 2023 budget of the ministry in Abuja.

The N206,242,395,000 billion is for the National Social Safety Nets Project, which is domiciled in the ministry while the World Bank is the funding source for the project.

Angered by the minister’s insolence, Betara queried why the Minister was not present to defend the “insertion”.

“If she is not ready for the job, she should quit.

“Most times, the committee calls the minister, she refuses to come. If she is not ready for the job, she should quit,” Betara said.

Explaining the “error” in the ministry’s budget, the Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, said the item was “wrongly coded” by the Budget Office.

She said the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management should have called the attention of the Budget Office to the anomaly like her counterparts in other ministries.

According to her, the Ministry of Defence, Federal Ministry of Power and others also committed the same error.

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She called for collaboration among Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) in a bid to forestall such oversight.

“The project was correctly described in the submission in the 2023 budget, but unfortunately the Budget Office used wrong code.

“This resulted in it being captured as ‘Purchase of Security Equipment’ in the budget preparation system.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, had sent the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Nasir Gwarzo, to represent her at the budget defence.

He said: “The minister said she did not understand the budget code, it was the media that reported the error as padding.

“We did not go to the media refuting the work the committee or the Ministry of Finance have done, but we wrote for clarification which was given.

“The amount of money in question was a counterpart funding that was given by the world bank, if it was done without appropriation, Nigerian would not have known what was borrowed.”

Commenting, members of the Committee, Igariwey Enwo (PDP-Ebonyi) and the Deputy Chairman, Appropriation, said the budget should not be subjected to unnecessary controversy.

“We are talking about money we borrowed, we should also know how we spend the money.

“Raising unnecessary controversy about the budget will not augur well. There should be inter-agency coordination,” Enwo said.

Mr Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) said: “My concern is that the image of our country should be protected in respect of the budget.

“I reached out to the Minister of Finance on the issue but nothing was done and I could not go ahead to give the media the information it needed at the point in time.”

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