- Wants 50% of FGâ€™s share of ecological fund reserved for emergencies
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
In line with the federal government and National Assemblyâ€™s recent resolution to return to the January-December budget cycle, the National Executive Council (NEC) thursday began consideration of the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
MTEF and FSP provide the medium-term framework for the federal governmentâ€™s financial projections for the next three fiscal years.
Components of the document usually include the exchange rate, inflation rate, oil benchmark, revenue target, review of the previous yearâ€™s expenditure and revenue performance, as well as the global economic outlook.
At its monthly meeting held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, briefed NEC on the need to return the budget cycle to the January-December calendar year, submitting that the 2018-2020 MTEF would be anchored on the recently launched Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
Highlighting factors that will influence projections in the proposed document, Udoma said the current global economic outlook shows that the country was expected to grow, even though there are some challenges that may negatively impede the expected growth between 2018 and 2020.
He listed factors such as policy changes in the United States, Britainâ€™s exit from the European Union (EU), climate change, oil price fluctuations as some of the uncertainties confronting the global economy, but assured his audience that despite the downward slide in oil prices, Nigeria was already exiting the recession.
Udoma who also said the non-oil sector was growing, disclosed that recovery was being witnessed in some sectors of the economy including manufacturing, agriculture and services, adding that efforts made to achieve peace in the Niger Delta were producing results.
He added that the key objectives and execution priorities of the ERGP would return the country on the path of growth.
In his presentation, the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasiru el-Rufai, said the Committee on Ecological Fund chaired by him, submitted its final report to the council with recommendations which among others, stated that henceforth, 50 per cent of the federal governmentâ€™s share of the ecological fund or N20 billion must be reserved for emergencies based on the presidentâ€™s discretion.
He said the committee also recommended that monitoring and evaluation strategies must be built into the application of the ecological fund to serve as a roadmap for measuring the performance of the fund, adding that a team that will review the report of the disbursement of funds must be put in place.
Other recommendations as highlighted by the governor included publicity on ecological disasters with a view to creating awareness and consciousness in the citizenry to avoid a future occurrence of a particular disaster.
He also harped on the committeeâ€™s recommendation that the disbursement of funds must be dictated by certain criteria such as visitation by the Ecological Office to the affected area for on-the-spot-assessment, verification of an ecological disaster, technical evaluation of the disaster by experts, community involvement, evidence of advocacy, evidence of existing prompt response, and existence of emergency response mechanism before the disaster.
Also, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMS) that she chaired to monitor the implementation of the 71 resolutions reached in the last NEC retreat, noted the challenges of rural banking.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and participant banks, she said, should be tasked to find innovative, efficient and sustainable means of handling bank verification number (BVN) registration and other non-traditional banking services for informal groups as part of their financial inclusion strategies.
Following the presentation of a memo to the council by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu on the need for harmonisation of â€œthe right of way chargesâ€ on telecommunications and related public utility infrastructure by local governments, states and federal highways, the council mandated the minister to liaise with the states and relevant stakeholders for smooth implementation of the right of way levies, noting that the tiers of government currently charge different rates.
Finally, the council was briefed by the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris on balances in different Federation Accounts as of July 19, 2017.
The balances were: Excess Crude Account (ECA) â€“ $2.303 billion; Ecological Fund Account â€“ N27.466 billion; Stabilisation Account â€“ N2.553 billion; and Development of Natural Resources Account â€“ N77.922 billion.