The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, has said that the 2018 budget, which is currently undergoing scrutiny by the National Assembly, is very transparent and masses-driven, devoid of suspicious items contrary to speculations by a some commentators.
According to Udoma, commentators have made observations and allegations that suggest that some line items and projects in the budget are suspicious; but the Minister explained that the items in the budget were well conceived and provided for by the respective MDAs.
In a statement released by the Senior Adviser to the Minister, Akpandem James, Wednesday January 17 in Abuja, pointed to some of the items, including N10 billion for settlement of liabilities to Contractors; N22.6 billion for Research and Development; N308.42 billion for procurement of riot control equipment for police formations; N2.21 billion for Social Media Mining Suite by the Department of State Security Services and N338 million for computer software acquisition in the Federal Ministry of Finance.
These were regarded as suspicious by BudgIT, a civil society organization (CSO), but the spokesman said they are genuine provisions which have been explained by the relevant MDAs.
According to James, “it is common knowledge that the Federal Government owes many contractors for certified works dating back as far as 10 years
“Thus, provisions are made in the annual budgets to offset some of these contractor liabilities.
“A good portion of these debts is domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, and so the Ministry made a provision of N10 billion in the 2018 Budget Proposal for settlement of liabilities.”
He also revealed that “In the Government Integrated Finance & Management Information System (GIFMIS), Research and Development is a programme description that encapsulates various projects.
“In this case, a check of the budget of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment will show that this includes the N19.3 billion for the Export Expansion Grant (EEG).
“For several years the EEG scheme was suspended on account of its dubious outcomes. However, in its bid to incentivise non-oil exports, the FGN reformed and reinstated the scheme with effect from 2017.
“The budgetary provision for this scheme will therefore be recurrent, year after year. Indeed, as the non-oil sector picks up, the amount of provision is expected to increase.
“On the issue of N308 million for procurement of riot control equipment for police formations and the Force Head Quarters, there are 37 State Police Commands (FCT inclusive) and the Force Headquarters.
“This amount is less than N10 million per state police HQ. Nigeria is yet to attain the UN ratio requirement of one police officer to 400 citizens of a country, thus this sort of provision is to help the already stretched force to keep up with the expectation of keeping law and order during protests or matches which are the basic tenets of the freedoms allowed in a democracy.”
Explaining further, he said “it is acknowledged the world over that matters of national security are treated with some degree of confidentiality. The project code-name, ‘Cleaning and fumigation services’ was adopted by the office of the National Security Adviser based on the available drop-down menu on the Budget Preparation Subsystem of the GIFMIS. However, the office of the National Security Adviser during the budget bilateral discussion provided information on the specific items of expenditure covered by the code name.
“On the N2.21 billion for Social Media Mining suite by the Department of State Security Services (DSS), the agency plans to implement some security protocols to curtail spread of information capable of threatening national security. This is by no means to hinder freedom of speech or expression as these will not be tampered with in as much as it is within the ambit of the law.
“The N338 million in the budget for computer software acquisition in the Federal Ministry of Finance is basically to fund some ICT solutions/initiatives for improving financial management within the Federal Ministry of Finance.”