The Coordinating Minister on the Economy/Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday apologized to the Senate for not honouring its earlier scheduled meeting. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu had last Tuesday threatened that the Upper Legislative Chamber may order her arrest if the minister failed to appear before the lawmakers yesterday.
She was supposed to brief the Senators on the 2012 budget implementation which had been an object of controversy with the executive. But yesterday, Okonjo-Iweala appeared before the Senators with the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emordi.
The minister told the Senate that the budget had so far been executed to the tune of 41%. She said the execution percentage is for capital expenditure between April and July 2012. The 2011 budget lapsed on March 31, 2012 and the new budget took effect from April 1. On Tuesday, the Deputy Senate President had directed the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Ahmed Maccido, to issue a warrant of arrest should Okonjo-Iweala fail to turn up on Thursday.
At yesterday’s parley, Senate President David Mark, represented by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), said that the National Assembly “will not accept responsibility for the failure of others.” Mark noted that although lawmakers are “willing to take whipping from Nigerians, we won’t be scapegoat for anybody.”
The minister showed up yesterday with profuse apologies on her non-appearance, disclosing that there was an earlier agreement with Ekweremadu to appear before the committee on an agreed date which she probably miscalculated. Senator Emordi was also at the meeting with the Senate Committees on Appropriation, Finance, Public Accounts, National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
She specifically exonerated the National Assembly from impeding the executive from implementing the 2012 budget, adding that the Presidency has “no problems at all with constituency projects of lawmakers.” Okonjo-Iweala also explained that this year’s budget is only four months since it came into effect in April, adding that she had been misquoted severally in the media over the 56 per cent implementation level recorded so far.
Giving a breakdown of the level of budget execution, the minister said out of the N1.3 trillion capital expenditure that was appropriated, “we’ve released all the funds we had for capital. Debt servicing had been done to the tune of N289 billion, N156 billion was released for statutory transfers while N163 billion had been released for overheads.
“There is no issue with the N1.6 trillion recurrent expenditure. In four months, N404 billion had been released and we have cash-backed N324 billion made available to the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
“This means that this is the cash available. The MDAs have used 56 per cent of the N324 billion released, meaning that there is still 44 per cent of the resources not used. It means there’s room for improvement. In managing the resources of this country, we have proper management of resources. “We have released all the monies available. We are not holding back any money of the nation. The CBN Governor can confirm that. We have released all the resources we had and I believe the ministers are working hard...
“Where we are now is to ensure efficient utilization of the resources. Third quarter resources will soon be released.” On budget execution, she said N446 billion should have been released but, N404 billion was provided from April to July. “Out of that, N184 billion had been utilized which is 41.3 per cent.
“As at now, 44 per cent is still available for MDAs to use. The money is there with the CBN to be accessed. Earlier, Ndoma-Egba said data available to the Senate shows that there are different figures on budget performance and reminded the minister that the meeting was akin to that held in the market square
“Nigerians are in a hurry to see dividends of democracy, they are in a hurry to see security, roads, electricity and construction...This will be a meeting in the market square; it’s a meeting in the market square because Nigerians demand to know what’s happening...”, he said.