The Coordinating Minister on the Economy/Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, may have walked herself into trouble over her fialure to attend a scheduled session with the Senate yesterday. Her travail is over the fuel implementation of this year’s budget.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, according to feelers from Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, may be in a fix as she is in London on official engagement. She is supposed to face the Senate session tomorrow. Ekweremadu threatened her arrest over the minister’s alleged refusal to attend the scheduled parley with the Senate yesterday on the level of budget implementation by the executive.
The minister had earlier claimed it was 56%, but the lawmakers insisted it was 21.3%. The minister has until tomorrow to appear before the Committees on Appropriation, Finance, Public Accounts, National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation or be arrested. Owing to her absence, the parley was called off as Senators insisted that the Upper House will not “dialogue with any representative. The Finance Minister must come and brief us on the level of budget implementation or else...”
Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has been invited to brief the committees on the degree of utilization of funds by the respective ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
The SGF is also expected to tell the Senate how the budget has impacted on the lives of the citizenry. Ekweremadu conveyed the displeasure of the Senate over accusations that the National Assembly tampered with the 2012 Appropriation Act, hence making it not implemental. He made this known at an interactive budget session between the Senate and the executive, led by the SGF.
The Finance Minister reportedly had earlier told the Senate that she was unable to attend the session and brief the lawmakers on the degree of release of funds to MDAs because she was in London.
But an obviously displeased Ekweremadu said Okonjo-Iweala’s absence was the second time she would be not make it to the session called by the Senate to enable her brief Senators on the level of implementation of the 2012 budget.
“This interactive session is about the degree of releases to MDAs and utilization by them. This is not a family affair; we are serious. It’s impossible to continue to dialogue in the absence of the minister. “She should be summoned on Thursday (tomorrow) and if necessary, a warrant be issued for her to disclose the degree of releases to MDAs.”
The Deputy Senate President noted that the National Assembly passed the 2012 budget with minimal inputs to ensure its implementation by the executive, adding that the legislature had to bend over backwards to accommodate amendments to the budget proposed by the executive.
Earlier, Appropriation Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Maccido, said that data available to the Senate showed that the Presidency has only implemented the budget by just 21.3 per cent.
He also said that the interactive session was convened to clear doubts about the level of budget implementation by the executive and know hindrances affecting budget execution. His words: “We are expecting the 2013 budget, yet, we are at a loss to the level of implementation of the 2012 budget, so that we can make amends.
“While the executive is claiming 56 per cent implementation, the information available to the Senate from the Budget Office is an implementation level of 21.3 per cent,” he said.