* NASS Fears Politicians May Hijack N500bn Intervention Fund
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Accruals to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) had accumulated to N2.9 trillion from N2.2 trillion in February, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, disclosed on Thursday.
This is even as the National Assembly has expressed fears that the N500 billion proposed by the Presidency for at least 1 million poor Nigerians, if passed, may be hijacked by politicians.
The Minister, who made the disclosure, while fielding questions along with the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, from the National Assembly Joint Committee on Appropriations, however, said the total of the sum may not be used to fund the proposed 2016 Budget of N6.08 trillion because some part of it will be go as operating cost for key revenue-generating agencies of the Federal Government.
“The total volume of the TSA is now N2.9 trillion. But as the money comes, we cannot just mop it up to finance the 2016 Budget. Some of the money coming from the NNPC and others into the account, for example, may be used to fund some of its projects,” she said.
Earlier, the Minister explained the irony behind the declined oil price.
“The oil price decline is a blessing in disguise. It will spur creativity in governance, and allow government to focus on harnessing resources from non-oil sectors,” she added.
On his part, Udoma disclosed to the Joint Appropriations Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives that the executive’s intention was to allow private sector funding for the mineral and agricultural sectors.
“The Budget proposal for Solid Minerals Ministry is N9 billion, while that of the Agriculture Ministry is N43 billion.
“Government intends to provide enabling environment for the agriculture and mineral sectors to thrive. Solid minerals need brain work, not billions of Naira, and
so for the agricultural sector. So, government wants the private sector to drive these areas,” he said.
Udoma also told the Joint Committee that government has already reduced the proposal for salaries, travels and other non-capital proposed spending by 9 percent, and may reduce more.
“Government wants to make arrangements with airlines to cut the cost of flights for public officials. This is the most difficult budget that we have had to deal with for along time,” he admitted.
The Minister, however, acknowledged the prerogative of the National Assembly in deciding how the final budget would look like.
Earlier, the chairmen of Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, respectively, took turns to query some sub-heads in the Budget, suggesting a scaling down or outright deferment for the 2017 Budget.
Goje, for example, suggested that the N500 billion proposed by the Presidency for at least 1 million poor Nigerians should be carried over to the 2017 Budget when he opined that it would be more realistic to implement.
He feared that, if passed, politicians may hijack the fund, and allocate same to cronies, family and party members, leading to the loss of the objective for which the social security initiative was thought out.
The UNION reports that the Budget would be passed March 17.