Tales of the Unexpected Characterise 2021 Budget Defence Sessions

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Udora Orizu writes that sordid revelations and stunning drama dominated the one month-long budget defence sessions at the House of Representatives

In a bid to sustain the return to the January to December budget cycle, both chambers of the National Assembly on October 20 adjourned plenary to November 24, 2020, to enable lawmakers hold budget defence sessions with various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on October 8, presented the 2021 budget estimates to a joint session of the National Assembly.

The proposed expenditure is pegged at N13.08 trillion with a crude oil benchmark price of $40 per barrel and daily oil production estimate of 1.86 million barrels per day. This also includes N1.35 trillion spending by Government Owned Enterprises and Grants and Aid funded expenditure of N354.85 billion. The budget contains recurrent expenditure of N5.65 trillion, personnel cost of N3.76 trillion and debt service of N3.12 trillion. Statutory transfers have been put at N484.4 billion while Pension, Gratuities & Retirees Benefits was put at N501.19 billion and Overhead cost at N625.50 billion.

Buhari said the 2021 budget is titled ‘Economic Recovery and Resilience’ with the aim of promoting economic diversity and enhancing social inclusion, while calling for prompt passage of the budget estimates by federal lawmakers.

In his closing remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila while commending his colleagues for making the budget cycle of January to December a reality, assured that they would pass the budget promptly.

He said, ”I thank my colleagues in the National Assembly for the dedication and commitment they showed last year during the appropriation process. Senators and members of the House of Representatives toiled night and day, sometimes through the night and into the wee hours of the morning to ensure that we achieved our commitment to return to the January to December budget cycle as envisaged by the constitution.

”I do not doubt that we will exhibit the same commitment to nation-building and deliver a good budget on time. We cannot afford a return to the old practices, and we must do everything in our power to avoid such an outcome. We also promised to pass a budget that reflected our priorities; healthcare, education, public infrastructure and the development of an economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels and gives to all Nigerians, the ability to achieve their dreams equal to their effort and commitment.”

Aside committees that held their defence sessions behind closed doors, the one-month brainstorming exercise with the MDAs that fielded questions from lawmakers about their 2020 budget performance and 2021 estimates, was filled with a lot of drama and so many revelations.

While some MDAs had a smooth sail, others literally waded through stormy waters some. A lot of padding, some fictitious plans with outrageous budgetary allocations were discovered in the budget of some MDAs. The outcome of some committees sessions in the House of Representatives were particularly revealing.

Committee on Financial Crimes

On November 11, the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes uncovered about N6 billion unspent funds in the coffers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), saying the commission may have gotten too many budgetary releases to the detriment of other agencies.

The Acting Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Mohammed Umar, told members that out of about N32 billion budgeted for the commission for the 2020 fiscal year, about N24.99 billion was released by the government, while about N18.23 billion of the released amount has been fully utilised.

Umar however told the committee that his commission was not aware of the provision in the 2020 appropriation which granted them five percent of all monies collected by the commission from recoveries for administrative purposes.

Umar said, ”Total releases as at September 2020 was N24.99 billion representing 70.8 percent of the total appropriation. The release for personnel cost is N21.98 billion, overhead cost, N2.100 billion and capital of N1.36 billion. Out of the total releases, N18.23 billion representing 74.88 percent has been fully utilised.

”A breakdown of the 2020 performance report shows that N24.99 billion was appropriated as personnel cost for the commission, out of which the sum of N21.397 billion has been released for the payment of salaries and allowances of staff between January and September, while the sum of N17.603 billion has so far been utilised as at the end of September 2020. The sum of N3.6 billion was appropriated for the commission’s overhead cost in 2020 out of which N2.1 billion has been released as at 30th September. The sum of N1.22 billion has so far been utilised.

”Similarly, the sum of N4.09 billion was appropriated for the commission’s capital budget out of which the sum of N1.638 billion has been released as at the end of September 2020. The procurement process of the 2020 capital project is still ongoing and the funds will be utilised as soon as the procurement process is over.

”N3.6 billion was proposed for overhead cost in 2020 and N2.1 billion released to you, while a total of N1.2 billion was utilised with a balance of N879 million and we are approaching the end of the year. Don’t you think there is a luxurious supply of funds, thereby denying other sectors getting enough money for their operations?

Some members of the committee however observed that while other agencies of government were facing financial crisis, the EFCC was having huge unspent funds, even as one of the members, Abdulganiyu Olododo (APC, Kwara) insisted that the commission must be transparent about how it has expended the money released to it.

Meanwhile, the EFCC boss canvassed for the establishment of special anti-corruption courts to speed up justice dispensation.

Speaking on the challenges faced by the commission, he said, “Not highlighting challenges it seems all is well, we’ve highlighted challenges, some of which include need to have special courts to try corruption cases, issue of increase of personnel, lack of promotion for some of the personnel, we need to promote more.”

Committee on Public Procurement

Another unsavoury discovery was made the next day by the Committee on Public Procurement. The Committee uncovered a worker in the Bureau of Public Procurement said to have been born in 1996 but was employed in 1992.

The management of the BPP appeared before the House Committee on Public Procurement for its 2021 budget defence, where a member, Hon. Nicholas Ossai, called the attention of the lawmakers to the stunning discovery on the bureau’s nominal roll, asking the Director-General, Mamman Ahmadu, to explain the irregularity.

A copy of the BPP’s nominal roll sited after the session has Lawal’s date of birth as 08/01/1996 and her employment date as 01/01/1992.

Lawal, who is from Bade Local Government Area of Yobe State, was promoted Deputy Director (Accounts) on Grade Level 16 on 01/01/2019, with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Post-Graduate Diploma.

Ossai said, ”On personnel, a female staff of the bureau named Lantewa Fatsuma Lawal, the Deputy Director, Accounts, with date of birth as 08/01/1996 received her first appointment on 15/12/1992; that is four years before her date of birth.”

Responding, Ahmadu however, said there was an error in the dates, making the lawmakers to resolve to carry out an oversight visit to the bureau while demanding more documents.

Again, Ossai, speaking on BPP’s overhead recalled that the DG, in his presentation, said the sum of N240.8 million had been committed to pending liabilities but the details provided only contained details amounting to N203.6 million.

The lawmaker also said while the bureau spent about N22m on welfare packages in 2019, same amount had been spent as of October 2020.

Ossai also asked the BPP boss to explain the N17 million spent on legal services as of October, even as he demanded details of the matters for which the services were engaged.

Another member of the committee, Hon. Dachung Bagos, raised an issue on the proposed surveillance of ongoing Federal Government projects for which about N38m was allocated while BPP still had a balance of N38 million.

He asked, “if one of your core duties is to supervise government projects, it means that from January to now, who has been supervising all the government projects and handling surveillance on them?

Responding, Ahmadu said they have procured some of the procurement audits and have submitted same for this year, adding that the second one is in the process of production.

Committee on Niger Delta Affairs

The House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs on November 10 queried the allocation of N15 billion out of the N19 billion proposed in the 2021 budget by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs for capital expenditure for the construction of the East-West Road.

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while presenting his ministry’s 2021 budget proposal to the committee, said N15 billion out of the N19 billion meant for capital expenditure would be used to construct the East-West Road.

But, members of the committee disagreed with him, saying the money was too much for just one project.

A member of the committee, Hon. Edim Eta, opined that the bulk of the money should go to youth programmes rather than the road.

According to him, ”If you’re budgeting N15 billion for East-West Road, are you saying that only N4 billion is left for other Niger Delta projects. I don’t think that’s fair. I believe the bulk of the funding that’s coming in 2021 should go to youth programmes. We all witnessed the #EndSARS protest; all these were from frustrations of staying at home from ASUU strike, unemployment among others, so can only N4 billion out of the total budget of the Niger Delta affairs go to those projects. Hon minister, I don’t think that’s a good idea. If the East-West Road money has been taken from the sovereign wealth fund, then the provision for that N15 billion should have been done separately to cover that.”

Corroborating Eta’s question, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Essien Ayi, said with the current agitations, the lawmakers would not allow him to spend such amount of money on only one project.

Ayi said, ”The East-West Road has been there for over 14 years. We just finished with #EndSARS, and we know what happened, as the whole of my state capital was turned upside down. The kind of devastation I saw there would have taken us about 10 years back. If the budget is youth-oriented, then why are we going to use N15 billion for East-West Road? I listened to the news where the Senate President warned that we should be careful that if this thing (protest) resurfaces again, it’s going to be very devastating. So Minister, we have about three hundred and something projects in Niger Delta, so how are you going to allocate the money to this kind of project? It’s not possible, and we will not do it.”

Responding, Akpabio said the amount spent so far on the road is about N423 billion, while amount paid till date is about N354billion.

He opined that the total completion of the road is about 80 percent, saying though release of funds is slow, and the annual rainfall has affected the work, the ministry was determined to surpass those challenges.

Speaking on why N15 billion was allocated to the project, the minister said, ‘’I want to deliver a road that will last for many years. You may not like my state, but look at my records; the roads I did 13 years ago in my state don’t have potholes. So I have the hope that I will deliver the same in the Niger Delta. We will provide for you the details of designs among others. I have not allowed any single variation, because I have not seen the kind of quality of work I would have loved to see, there was one that entered into Federal Executive Council and I had to step it down.”

Committee on FERMA

On November 5, the Managing Director of Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Mr. Nurudeen Rafindadi, appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on FERMA, chaired by Hon. Richard Femi Bamise, to defend the agency’s 2021 budget proposal, alleged that the Ministries of Finance and Works and Housing were responsible for the inflation in their 2021 budget by over N11 billion.

A member of the committee, Hon. Yusuf Gadgi, had asked the FERMA boss why their budget had a sudden increase of over N11 billion.

Gagdi said, “Earlier to this moment, we’re privileged to know your budget proposal to the ministry; from the ministry to the National Assembly, the proposal changed from twenty something billion to thirty something billion. I will respectfully want you to address that aspect. You in charge of FERMA, how come before the proposal got to the National Assembly it was increased upwards?

“If it was increased, who is responsible for the increment with what you defended during your inter-ministerial defence? Coming to National Assembly, the amount of over N11 billion was increased in the proposal you earlier submitted. We want that confirmation from you.’’

Responding, the FERMA boss said, ‘’Our proposal of budget as it is today is submitted to the Federal Ministry of Works. And the reason is that FERMA is an agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Works. We’re represented at the cabinet by the Minister of Works. Our budget is in the envelope of the ministry, so the ministry is asked to submit their budget within that envelope, and it includes budgets of agencies under the ministry of which FERMA is one of them. So, we got instructions to submit our budget through the Ministry of Works, and we submitted to them.

“It is true that we submit our budget to the ministry, what happens after is on the ministry-then Ministry of Budget and Planning-until subsequently it reaches the House of Representatives. We only know what was in our budget after submission. We’ve since gotten the budget of FERMA as submitted to the National Assembly, and we’ve been analyzing the differences between the two budgets like you said.”

During the session as well, members of the committee had prevented the agency from presenting its 2021 budget over lack of execution of the 2020 budget.

Rafindadi, and his management team were ordered out of the session as House members deliberated among themselves.

House members, while deliberating, said the agency has been irresponsible and unresponsive to its core mandate. Some of the members said they had called the Managing Director to alert him on the sorry state of some roads in the country, but he refused to pick their calls.

Eventually, the FERMA boss and his team were called in and the lawmakers agreed that the budget hearing be adjourned so that a thorough consideration could be done. Thus, when the agency appeared again to defend its budget, Gagdi, who questioned the increase in FERMA’s envelope, gave the update on the Committee’s position.

According to him, the lawmakers resolved that they would ensure the projects spread across all the six geopolitical zones if at all it would be adopted into the 2021 Appropriation Act.

He said, ”There was an envelope that was given to FERMA by Ministry of Finance through Ministry of Works, which is the supervising ministry of FERMA and I came to discover that the project was increased not by the National Assembly. Normally Ministry of Finance has enveloped budget because we operate envelope budget so I was aware of the fact that the envelope that was given to FERMA was not up to N30 billion, it was N20 something billion.

“And all of a sudden, I just discovered that they have submitted from the Ministry of Finance, to the National Assembly over N30 something billion with an increment of about N11 billion. I raised that issue and I still stand on my feet to question the increase. It is even the right of the budget office to submit whatever they want to submit to the National Assembly I won’t even call it padding because they have increased the money beyond the envelope of their ministry.

“But my argument is this, why will you increase about N11 billion to one state? It is not possible. Then the committee on FERMA agreed that the purpose of elective representative is to ensure equity and fairness to all the geopolitical entities. We now say you have brought this budget, that it is one sided. If you look at my comment very well, I tackled the fact that the budget is not balanced. So we must balance the budget as the people that have the right to do it in such a way that it represents the interest of Nigerians. My position on the N11 billion still stands that from somewhere between the Ministry of Works and Ministry of Finance, N11 billion was increased at inter-ministerial level in the budget of FERMA. And I still stand by
it. I will give you the document, you will see it clearly. The predominant state that got that N11 billion that was increased is Imo State without any fear of political contradictions but I don’t know who increased it.”

Speaking after the budget defence session, Hon. Bamidele Salam said that there was an attempt to rush the passage of the budget and prevent those of us who had observations from doing so.

Committee on Finance

Appearing before the House Committee on Finance, November 4, to defend the
commission’s 2021 budget proposal, the Chairman of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr. Elias Mbam, disclosed that following a nationwide monitoring exercise on the Solid Minerals sector with the aim of examining royalty collection to the Federation Account for the period 2009 to 2015, it was discovered that the country was losing an estimated revenue of about N1.3 trillion annually.

He explained that the analysis of the exercise, which is still ongoing, was carried out on 10 mineral type, namely: Gold, Tin-ore, Coal, Columbite, Kaolin Crude, Lead, Gypsum, Tantalite Crude, Zinc and Manganese, taking into consideration their qualities, quantities and their international value.

Mbam also revealed that the commission, during the monitoring, verification and reconciliation exercise on revenue collection and remittances by commercial banks, companies and collecting agencies, also recovered the sum of N75 billion.

Similarly, he said the commission in collaboration with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2020 conducted an exercise on reconciliation and recovery of tax liabilities owed the Federation Account from 2008 to 2019 by some MDAs, states and their MDAs and local government councils respectively, saying the exercise is ongoing and over N79 billion liabilities have been established.

Speaking further, Mbam, in a bid to reduce the cost of governance, emphasised the need for the review of the remuneration package for political, public and judicial office holders.

He said, ‘’The cost of governance in Nigeria is very high, and has continued to be on the increase. This is unsustainable as no country can develop with such high level of recurrent expenditure. Some of the reasons responsible for this include duplication of agencies of government with virtually similar functions and responsibilities, corruption, unlimited number of political appointments, wasteful spending, and ghost workers syndrome among others.

“Recommendations to ensure cost reduction include avoiding unnecessary duplications of agencies with similar functions, reduction in number of political appointees to the barest minimum as recommended in the commission’s remuneration package, strict compliance with approved remuneration packages of office holders, and ensuring prudent spending of government funds.’’

He also stressed the need for effective operation and management of the Federation Account, saying the overwhelming powers conferred on the office of the Accountant General of the Federation has failed to yield positive results.

Responding, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Hon. James Faleke, asked the commission to come up with the information regarding the recovery of N75 billion.

The lawmaker also tasked the commission on the need to synergize with FIRS in its quest to block leakages.

Also, during another session, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed disclosed that the Federal Government is seeking the approval of $1.2 billion loan from Brazilian Government to address issues in the agriculture value chain as the country moves towards other sources of revenue.

Committee on Aids, Loan and Debt Management

The Federal Government, November 5, revealed plans to issue promissory notes worth N35.813 billion to 30 local contractors. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed disclosed this during the 2021 budget defence held by the House Committee on Aids, Loan and Debt Management.

She explained that a list comprising of 30 contractors in the sum of N35,813,220,910.64 have been verified by Presidential Initiative Continuous Audit (PICA) and recommended for the issuance of Promissory Note Programme for the consideration and approval by Federal Executive Council (FEC), after which it will be forwarded to the National Assembly for approval.

The Minister further explained that from the list of the earlier verified contractors, the sum of N2,996,392,669.52 was approved for payment to 831 contractors in September, 2020, adding that the payment was ongoing.

Ahmed also observed that there is an ongoing compilation of about 1,888 of contracts for the consideration and approval, these approval will be funded from the balance of N2,536,305,625 left in the 2020 Service Wide Vote under local contractors’ debts.

The Minister also disclosed that the sum of N15 billion was proposed for local contractors debt in the 2021 budget proposal to aid the Federal Government in reducing its debt burden.

Committee on Science and Technology

On November 9, bickering ensued between the members of Science and Technology Committee and some MDAs.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu and member, Hon. Awaji-Inombek at the defence had disagreed over the implementation of the annual science competition for Nigerian students.

Onu had told the Committee that the annual Science Competition was aimed at rewarding students in science and innovation, but Abiante said if the project was actually in existence, then it was being executed in secrecy and therefore cannot be said to have benefited Nigerians especially his constituents.

While the Minister took time to explain how the programme works, Abiante requested the Minister to give him the name of one person from his constituency who has benefited from the programme.

Abiante said; “Mr. Minister, these things you are saying, are they things you intend to do or things that you are already doing, because by the special grace of God, I represent two local governments and if you can mention just one person from my constituency that has benefited from all that you have said, I will be satisfied. All these beautiful and wonderful statements that we all make here yearly have become a ritual that Nigeria should adopt. But right there at the grass root, they don’t exist. If you doubt me, send any of your men.

”I am ready to go back to my constituency just to see one of the things you have mentioned. For the sake of our children, I appeal that whatever we do, we should be very patriotic and be mindful of what we say because, before you know it, you see EndSARS looking for the things you said you have done.”

Onu said, “the way the programme runs is that we write to the state government requesting the various local government areas in the state to conduct exams in four subjects of Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics and select one person from the local government. We are not involved in the selection process.

“Those people selected from the local government will meet at the state level where an examination is also conducted for them and the best candidate picked and sent to us in Abuja. Those 37 students from the states will also sit for an examination from where we select the best three. We are not even involved in the process of conducting the exams.

“These three students are the ones that will be given award. The President will present the award to them which is government scholarship up to PhD level, but that must be in a Nigerian university. We do not give award to all those who sit for the exams. As Minister, none of the beneficiaries has come from my state of Ebonyi. I have worked with seven Permanent Secretaries and none of the beneficiaries come from their states.”

But the Minister’s explanation appeared not acceptable to the lawmaker who insisted that it was shrouded in secrecy and therefore cannot be said to have taken place.

Intervening, the Committee Chairman, Hon. Beni Lar kept hitting the gavel to maintain order even when the Minister insisted on making a response.

Lar said, “I think what we will do is that the Director will provide the information so that we know what the Ministry is doing. But the Ministry says the state is doing it, and we cannot go without asking any questions. So, don’t be offended. It is just to clarify certain issues. So, let us provide the needed information so that members can be aware. Having said that, we have to go into an executive session with the Minister.”

Also during the budget defence of the Energy Commission of Nigeria, Abiante queried the 2020 budget performance of the Commission, describing it as abysmal, pointing out that barely seven weeks to the end of the 2020 budget cycle, the Commission can only boast of 2.7 percent budget performance.

He said, ”Mr. Chairman, this is just a routine. For the first time, we have a budget that will run from January to December and we have just seven weeks to the end of this year and this budget. I should not be asking questions on what has not been done with the budget. I should be asking questions on what has been done, but not done well. But here we are few weeks to the end of the budget year, we can only boast of 2.7 percent performance of the budget.

”During the EndSARS protest, the youths did not go the House of the Director General or any Director. They went to the Houses of lawmakers and I am sure if this money was spent the way it was budgeted, there would have been something for them to do. We should be able to put these things in the public domain so that the people know where to direct their questions.’

Abiante frowned at one of his colleagues who, making a side comment asked whether it was compulsory for people from his constituency to work in the Commission.

He fired back, ”are you saying whether it is compulsory for my people to work in a Federal Government agency? I do not expect that comment from you. Please don’t push me because if you do, I will talk and you will not like what I will say.”

Responding, the Director General of the Commission, Prof Eli Jidare Bala assured the lawmaker that he has staff from Rivers state among the 751 staff of the Commission.

Committees on Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas Resources

There were clear signs of disappointment
on November 16, when the Minister of Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari failed to show up for budget defense of the Committees.

Members of Committee numbering more than 50 were made to sit for more than an hour waiting for Kyari and Sylva’s arrival, but they never turned up.

The lead Committee Chairman, Hon. Musa Sarkin-Adar, noticing that his colleagues were no longer comfortable with the situation, decided to address everyone. He announced that the minister who earlier confirmed to all three chairmen of his willingness to appear, didn’t come because he was summoned to the Villa by Mr. President.

His words, ”My dear honourable colleagues, We have been here today for the budget defence of petroleum with the minister who said he was summoned to the Villa by Mr. President. Seated by my right is my elder brother and leader, Hon. Nicholas Mutu, chairman Gas, and to my immediate left is my younger brother but leader in the House, Hon. Abdullahi Mahmoud Gaya, chairman Upstream. Although he called a while ago to say that he was summoned to the Villa by Mr President, and it is our believe he’s still with Mr President.”

Sarkin-Adda thereby suggested that they adjourn the meeting sine die pending when the minister is ready to make appearance.

Days later, on November 26, when Kyari appeared before the Committees to present the 2020 budget performance and 2021 budget estimates of NNPC, the lawmakers demanded that the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should open up its books on various expenditures incurred on Joint Venture cooperation (JVC), pipeline maintenance, rehabilitation of refineries, among others.

In his intervention, Chairman, House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Hon.Ossai Nicholas Ossai demanded for details of all the expenditures incurred by the Corporation.

He maintained that most of the details on expenditure for refineries and pipeline rehabilitation are not projected at all, saying that the JVC is also at negative.

In his response, Kyari assured the National Assembly of transparency and accountability. He said, ”On details of the gas project we have track of how much has been spent on all projects and we will provide all. On details of pipeline security we have 5000 kilometers of pipeline we have 13 fuel depots, apart from two pipelines, others are not active. We cannot flow products into these lines, because they have aged. But the real reason is that the level of vandalism activities on these lines is gross and profound.

”When I came on board we sought support of investigative agencies to contain this. In 2019, from January to June we’ve lost petroleum products close to N43 billion in just one night in six months stolen and that level of loss has come to less than N3 billion. We’re proud to have done this but to achieve this we maintain architecture of security which is needless in a very sane environment. This is reality, the alternative is to do nothing.

”On the PMS under recovery, we deregulated PMS pricing regime in March, in January February and part of March, the market was not regulating, in course of the realities of COVID-19, we do no longer need appropriation for PMS under-recovery because PMS will pay for itself there’s no subsidy on it.

”We’re not avoiding conversation around refinery rehabilitation. We deliberately shutdown all three refineries, it doesn’t make any further sense to continue to operate them because we are unable to supply crude oil to refinery, it’s impossible to run this pipeline at their optimum capacity, for you to run Kaduna and Warri refineries, you need to deliver at 170,000 barrels of oil per day into this line will be able to operate at least 70 percent of their capacity.

”The lines as a result of acts of vandals that anytime we attempt to form more than 10,000 barrels per day, the line gives up so it can’t deliver more than 110 and therefore you cannot operate Kaduna and Warri refinery with the current structure. We will rehabilitate these refineries, fix the pipeline by the BOT process that we’ve started so they can operate at optimal level instead of losing both in terms of value they create and also crude stolen on the pipeline and we think the right to do is shutdown.

While giving summary of the Corporation’s financials, Kyari disclosed that, “For the gross revenue, for the full year plan we have a total of N2.5 trillion planned, however the plan from January to September was N1.8 trillion that we were able to bring into the coffers of the government N2.0 trillion.

”Joint venture cost recovery we planned N1.5 trillion for the year to spend on JV operations, even though COVID impacted our operations we were still able to deliver below cost N816 billion. For other federally funded projects, dump gas, we planned N424 bullion as at August we had slightly exceeded budget but not for full year plan but I’m sure we will finish the year within budget. For gas infrastructure projects development we operated below budget as indicated in the charts, N15 billion below budget.

”On frontier explorations, from the budget of N50 billion, we were able to work within that budget for the planned period. For refinery rehabilitation, the initial funding will come from Federal Government while subsequent funding will be sourced from our financiers. We plan to remit N521 billion and as at August we’ve remitted N872 billion,” he said.

Giving update on the current crude oil production, Mr. Kyari said in terms of production, their estimate for production is 1.88 million barrels per day away from the 2.3 initially down in 2020 budget.

”As I speak to you now our performance is 1.863 so we’re very close and within budget and this also tells us that we’re going to meet our commitment to our partners in OPEC. What’s crucial is to see where these productions are coming from. For exploration in a situation where we were confronted with COVID, exploration activities were the first to be hit in the oil and gas industry. So for the plan five we were not able to achieve any exploration. For PSC out of four that we had we succeeded in drilling three exploration wells,” the GMD added

Speaking earlier, Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Musa Adar, applauded the NNPC management for presenting the Corporation’s budget for the first time to the Parliament and well as its contribution towards the introduction of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Committee on Internally Displaced Persons

Making a big disclosure, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq on November 10, said that all the 35 State governors including the Federal Capital Territory, received COVID-19 palliatives except Rivers State.

Farouk stated this when she appeared
before the House committee on Internally Displaced Persons to defend her Ministry’s 2020 budget performance and presentation of the 2021 proposal.

Her response followed a question by a committee member, Hon. Abbas Adigu on whether the palliatives went round the country.

She said, ”The issue raised by Hon. Abbas on COVID-19 palliatives. We distributed these palliatives to all the states. We have given out 70,000 tons of grains from the national grain centre by Mr. President. We were also given food stuff by Customs and this we distributed round the 36 States of the federation including FCT. We handed over these palliatives to all the State Governors for onward distribution to the poor and the vulnerable in their States. In FCT, we handed over the palliatives to the two ministers of FCT for distribution to the poor. It is only Rivers State that has not collected their own share. It is still there waiting for them.”

The Minister also said that her Ministry did not receive any funding from any organization both within and outside Nigeria.

She said, “We have not received a penny from any organization within or outside Nigeria. We only operate within the budgetary allocation as appropriated. But we received some relief items from some organizations during the pandemic like food items, beverages. This is what I will say to that. We have received any funding from any quarters.”

Asked whether she handed out cash to vulnerable Nigerians during the COVID-19 lockdown, she said none was shared.

” I have not given any cash patterning COVID-19. The cash transfer that we did is already an existing programme under the NSIP that is being given to the poor and honorable household across the country. It has nothing to do with COVID-19 except that Mr. President directed that we should give two months advance. Other than that, we have not distributed cash in the name of palliatives”, Farouq said.

Committee on Judiciary

The House Committee on Judiciary, November 16, dismissed the N110 billion allocation to the judiciary in the 2021 Appropriation Bill and especially faulted the Federal Government for failing to increase the fund despite appointing eight more Justices of the Supreme Court.

This is just as the House criticised the revenue being generated by judicial bodies, which the lawmakers said should be rendering social services.

The House Committee on Judiciary had organised a budget defence session for the National Judicial Council (NJC) and other bodies. Those that appeared before the lawmakers include the Supreme Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court of Nigeria, and the National Judicial Institute.

The Council Secretary, NJC, Mr Ahmed Saleh, in his presentation, demanded more allocation to the judiciary.

“We are all living witnesses to the current situation in the country. In view of this, I want to reiterate the same position that the Nigerian judiciary is indeed in dire need for increased funding,” he said.

Saleh disclosed that the courts across all cadres are getting more judges, putting more pressure on the judiciary’s already lean purse.

Saleh told the committee that NJC’s initial proposal for the entire judiciary was N187,945,531,476 but a lot of adjustments had to be made as N110bn was “given to us.”

In his presentation, Deputy Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Reuben Jego, warned that activities at the apex court might suffer, with the reduction of its allocation despite having eight more justices.

Jego said, “This decrease will adversely affect the court’s activities due to the recent appointments of eight additional Honourable Justices to the full complement of court bench capacity as provided by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. These appointments, which were graciously approved by the distinguished National Assembly, are expected to impact our capital expenditure.”

Chairman of the committee, Mr. Onofiok Luke, who was miffed by the revelations, described the reductions as illogical.

Luke said, “I don’t know the logic behind the decrease in the allocation to the Supreme Court for 2021 as against what was obtainable even in 2020 when we did not have the number of Justices that we have today. If you had budgeted N10 billion when the court was less number of justices in the 2020 appropriation, and just towards the end of 2020 the President appointed not one, not two, not three but eight justices of the Supreme Court, I think wisdom, logic and common sense should prevail on the need to even make an increase. Assuming an increase over the allocation for 2020 could not be achieved, why not remain at the benchmark?”

As the defence comes to an end, various committees have begun submission of reports, so as to meet up with its deadline.

QUOTE 1

Aside committees that held their defence sessions behind closed doors, the one-month brainstorming exercise with the MDAs that fielded questions from lawmakers about their 2020 budget performance and 2021 estimates, was filled with a lot of drama and so many revelations. While some MDAs had a smooth sail, others literally waded through stormy waters some. A lot of padding, some fictitious plans with outrageous budgetary allocations were discovered in the budget of some MDAs. The outcome of some committees sessions in the House of Representatives were particularly revealing

QUOTE 2

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while presenting his ministry’s 2021 budget proposal to the committee, said N15 billion out of the N19 billion meant for capital expenditure would be used to construct the East-West Road.
But, members of the committee disagreed with him, saying the money was too much for just one project. A member of the committee, Hon. Edim Eta, opined that the bulk of the money should go to youth programmes rather than the road. According to him, ”If you’re budgeting N15 billion for East-West Road, are you saying that only N4 billion is left for other Niger Delta projects. I don’t think that’s fair. I believe the bulk of the funding that’s coming in 2021 should go to youth programmes. We all witnessed the #EndSARS protest