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Senate faults ‘smuggled’ N16bn vote into environment ministry’s budget

Posted by on November 22, 2021 0


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The Chairman, Senate Committee on the Environment, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Monday, drew the attention of the Appropriation Committee of the red chamber to the sum of N16bn allegedly smuggled into the 2022 budget of the Ministry of Environment.

Ekweremadu spoke when he appeared before the Appropriation panel to defend his committee’s 2022 budget report.

He said the money was actually meant to service loans believed to have been collected by the Federal Government on behalf of some states being ravaged by erosion.

He said the same anomaly was discovered last year but that the ministry explained that it was a mistake.

He pointed out that the loans were supposed to be paid by the states for a period of 10 years, starting from 2023.

The senator said the loans would be deducted from the allocations to beneficiary states and not from the service wide vote or the budgets of agencies of the Environment Ministry.

Ekweremadu said, “Last year, there was N6bn in the environment budget for the servicing of a multilateral loan regarding erosion control.

“Regrettably, about N1.5bn of it was released to the environment and later the ministry of finance wrote, saying it was a mistake that it was supposed to be from the service wide vote from where we service most of the loans.

“So, we took it in good faith but surprisingly, we now got another N16bn for the same reason from the ministry of environment. However, there was a directive from the leadership of the National Assembly that we should not tamper with monies provided for multilateral loans.”

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He added, “So, we decided to find out what it was all about; eventually, we invited the ministry, which now said that by the time they got their envelope, which contains the money they sent to ministries to distribute to agencies, there was no such amount.

“But by the time the money came to the National Assembly, there was this N16bn for the servicing of the new map loan. We asked when this money is due for servicing, they said they have a 10-year moratorium; we can’t be providing for it until 2023.

“We also found out that about 21 states are benefiting from it and it is these states that will pay the loan and not the Federal Government. So, it is either we wait until 2023 before making provisions for it or we ask the states to start making provisions for it if they have to pay now.

“Even if the Federal Government has to pay, it has to go through the service wide votes, not the respective budgets of the MDAs; it’s wrong. The anomaly is untidy.”

The Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, commended Ekweremadu’s panel for its diligence and meticulousness to the assignment committed to it.

Jibrin said, “The report submitted by you is precise and straight to the point.  We are satisfied with your report.

“What you are doing in this committee is commendable. It shows that you are doing your oversight properly.”

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