Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja
The Federal Government has so far released funds amounting to N404 billion to Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in its implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act.
The releases which cover the first and second quarters of the fiscal calendar consists of N304 billion and N100 billion respectively.
Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday this yesterday at a meeting with the House Committee on Appropriation, that about N239 billion of the first quarter releases were cash-backed while utilisation was about N94 billion or thirty nine per cent.
Okonjo-Iweala also disclosed that the releases made in the second quarter was dictated by the rate of utilisation and performance of the various MDAs during the first quarter.
She denied the allegations of selective budget implementation, stressing that priority was given to certain sectors of the economy and releases targeted to areas where they would have maximum impact of the citizenry.
According to the minister, the government has also begun to take into cognisance the dynamics of the global economy and the likely impacts on Nigeria.
She however warned that Nigeria must take urgent steps to diversify her economy by developing the non-oil sector to be able to survive future challenges.
Okonjo-Iweala observed that whereas Nigeria used to be among the few oil producing countries in Africa, the situation had changed in recent times following the discovery of oil in several other countries.
She said the situation coupled with the volatility of the price of crude oil in the international market has made the Nigerian economy vulnerable.
In order to ensure sustainable growth of the economy, she said, the Excess Crude Account should be allowed to grow from its current low level to about $10billion; foreign reserves must also be allowed to grow and the entire economy must be managed in a fiscally prudent manner.
Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon John Enoh had at the opening of the meeting raised the concerns of the lawmakers on the budget implementation.
Enoh said that there had been complaints of selective implementation of the budget, lopsidedness in the release of funds and inadequate release of same in some cases.
According Enoh, the parliament expected much more from the executive given the fact that the 2012 budget was passed by the National Assembly with little or no alterations on the budget proposal submitted to it.
He faulted the use of the performance in the first quarter as a yard stick for the release of funds in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the House yesterday mandated its Committee on Petroleum Resources(Upstream) to investigate the operations of the Joint Venture agreements with particular reference to leakages. The investigation will encompass a forensic assurance review of the Joint Venture accounts to establish the amounts of income that accrued to Joint Venture Partners and the actual amount remitted to the Federation Account in the past seven years.
Also yesterday, the House urged the Ministry of Communications and the Nigeria Communications Commission to direct all GSM service providers to activate the Caller Line Identification System to render ineffective all calls made without the caller disclosing his identity.