- N’Assembly doubts govt’s sincerity on N500bn social intervention scheme
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
At the defence of N180 billion virement from 2016 budget before the Joint National Assembly on Appropriation monday, agencies of government and Budget Office presented conflicting figures.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on November 1, 2016 submitted a proposal for the virement of N180 billion from 2016, budget to the National Assembly for approval.
At the defence of the proposal by relevant agencies yesterday, the figures presented by the agencies were at variance with the figures in the proposal.
For instance, while the president presented N19.792 billion budget for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the Director of Finance and Accounts in NYSC, Mr. AIB Adeleke, told the committee that the NYSC actually needed only N8.5 billion.
These conflicting figures shocked the committee Chairman, Senator Danjuma Goje, as he asked Adeleke if he was sure it was only N8.5 billion that was needed by NYSC. But Adeleke held on to his presentation that it was all the NYSC needed this time.
But a Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, quickly left his seat to mutter some words into Adeleke’s ears just as the Director-General of Budget, Ben Akabueze, claimed that Adeleke did not get his figures right.
Akabueze had claimed that NYSC earlier requested for N11.2 billion, insisting that the president had proposed N19.792 billion because he wanted to address both the outstanding and current needs of NYSC once and for all.
But the audience silently wondered if Akabueze was speaking the truth wondering how the Director of Finance of NYSC would not know what the Corps actually needed. However, it looked clear to everyone that the figures were obviously written without consultation with NYSC as Adeleke seemed to have presented all he appeared to have known that the scheme needed.
However, Adeleke who had insisted that all the NYSC needed was N8.5 billion, soon changed his mind after the claims made by Akabueze and probably by the words muttered into his ears as he soon said: “I agree with the submission of the DG Budget.”
On the other hand, Public Complaint Commission presented a higher figure than the one proposed for it in the virement proposal as the commission implored the committee to approve the sum of N2.5 billion as against N1.2 billion presented by the president.
In the same vein, the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme urged the committee to approve N35.2 billion as against N35 billion in the proposal.
It was also discovered yesterday that barely 40 days to the end of the 2016 fiscal year, the federal government had only spent less than N1 billion of the N500 billion Social Welfare Scheme approved in 2016 budget.
Making this disclosure before the committee, Special Adviser to the President for Social Protection Plan, Mrs. Mariam Uwais, said since the budget was approved, a total of N25 billion had so far been released out of which she said less than N1 billion had been spent.
She expressed optimism that another N40 billion would be released before the end of the year adding that the some of N60 billion could eventually be spent before the year runs out.
“Out of the N500billion appropriated for the social intervention programme, we have not spent up to N1billion. We have been preparing, we have the framework in place but unfortunately, we did not get the release early enough. By the end of this month, we would have spent up to N60billion,” Uwais said.
However, the committee expressed shock that the Social Intervention Scheme which was a major campaign promise by the ruling All Progressives Congress (AC) was treated with perceived levity by the administration with only less than N1 billion of the whopping N500 billion budgeted by the administration spent so far.
Both the Appropriation Committee Chairmen of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Goje and Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki, doubted the sincerity of the executive arm of government towards implementing the scheme.
Goje said: “I don’t know if you are aware that this your agency is borne out of our campaign promises. And you’re here to say that you don’t need the money. You don’t need the balance of the money, you want it appropriated to other agencies. After we have promised the people that we are going to provide them money and the money would be sent to them. It’s quite sad.”