•To roll over 60% 2019 budget to next year, says Ngige
Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government yesterday indicated its readiness to recover N614 billion budget support facility it lent to 35 states of the federation during the first term of the Buhari administration when the federation was hit by a fiscal crisis arising from the volatility of oil price in the global market.
It has, therefore, set up a committee to work out the modality on how to recover the money from the states.
The federal government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, also said it would roll over 60 per cent of this year’s budget to next year.
Briefing State House correspondents in Abuja, at the end of the monthly National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said NEC resolved to set up the committee comprising members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to work out modalities on how the states would repay the facility to the CBN.
The money was part of the bailout funds provided by the federal government to states during the first term of the current administration to enable them to pay salaries and arrears they owed workers.
The federal government had disclosed earlier that it gave over N1.1 trillion naira, including Paris Club refunds to states during the period.
But Ahmed during the briefing, said the decision to commence the recovery of the loans was the fallout of her update report to the council on budget support facility to states.
“As at today, the budget support facility advanced by the federal government to the states is a total sum of N614 billion and this is to 35 states.
“This means an equivalent of N17.5 billion per state. Council agreed,” she said.
The minister also gave the balances in the Stabilisation account and Natural Resource Development Fund account, putting the total balances in both accounts as at August 20, 2019 at $95,329,245 million.
According to her, while the Stabilisation Fund Account has a balance of N21,729 billion, the balance in the Natural Resource Development Fund account is N95,896 billion.
“The Stabilisation Fund Account, which has a balance of N21,729 billion and Natural Resource Development Fund which has N95,896 billion,” Ahmed stated.
She added that the Ad hoc Committee on Excess Crude and other special accounts of the federation asked the council for more time to conclude its report.
The NEC is a body of state governors, select ministers and some government officials handling economic matters and presided over by the vice-president.
FG to Roll over 60% of 2019 Budget to Next Year, Says Ngige
Also speaking on the nation’s economy yesterday, Ngige said the federal government was considering rolling over about 60 per cent of the 2019 budgetary allocations to 2020.
According to him, the decision to roll over the substantial part of the current budget to next year was conveyed to ministers during the recent retreat organised by the presidency for them.
Ngige, who spoke at a ceremony organised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in Abuja to mark his formal assumption of duty, said government felt that this year’s budget had not been implemented aggressively enough and whatever left of the current budget would at the end of 2019 rolled over to next year.
“Sixty per cent of this year’s budget may be rolled over to next year; this was what we were told during the ministerial retreat because it has not been aggressively implemented enough,” he said.
The minister, who returned to ministry after serving in the same capacity in the last four years, said the ministry would ensure strict enforcement of transparency and accountability amongst parastatals and agencies under it.
He said as part of efforts to check budget padding, there would be internal budgetary defence to be coordinated by the ministry before it is forwarded to the president for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
Ngige warned that the ministry would henceforth expose and sanction any head of parastatal or agency found culpable over padding of budget estimates.
“Budget padding occurs because parastatals invite the Assembly members to come and warehouse padded things into their budget. So this must stop. Any parastatals or agency that does that will henceforth be exposed and sanctioned appropriately, ” he said.
Ngige who was accompanied by the Minister of State, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, said the ministry would tackle outstanding trade disputes with a view to ensuring enduring industrial peace.
In addition, the ministry will engage leadership of all trade unions on pending issues so as to create peaceful atmosphere for the economy and business to thrive.
Ngige acknowledged that there were some disputes with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which will be resolved in a family way now that he is back.
On his part, Alasoadura said he would cooperate with Ngige to actualise the targets of the ministry.
The minister of state said: “I don’t have any reason not to cooperate with my friend, Ngige, because we have been friends even before we were appointed ministers.
I am a team player and having two ministers at the ministry requires that we should work as a team.’’