…Over N12.6bn projects in agric sector
PLANS by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to make the agricultural sector its main focus in the face of the dwindling oil economy appear to have suffered a setback as fresh revelations hint of a drastic reduction in the allocation to the sector in the 2016 budget passed by the National Assembly.
Aside the ministry’s N40.918 billion budget proposal that was reduced to N31.618 billion by the National Assembly, the lawmakers allegedly inserted fresh 386 projects worth N12.6. billion.
A member of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee from the South, who expressed worry at the development, pledged to activate the necessary machinery to ensure a probe was instituted to unravel how fresh projects were allegedly injected without the knowledge of the entire membership of the committee.
The source said: “We are happy that the speaker hinted that the issue of the budget will be revisited this week. But what some of us want is the understanding of Nigerians on this matter.
“The issue of this controversial budget has to be carefully done this time around, because some persons who think they were smarter had already led the entire parliament into collision with the executive and indeed Nigerians.
“They have done this by inserting projects without the knowledge of others either in the appropriation or relevant sectoral committees and presenting same as the collective decision of the house or the entire parliament.
“To the best of my knowledge, as a member of both the appropriation and agriculture committees in the House of Representatives, I did know that we reduced the ministry’s N40.9 billion proposal by about N9.3 billion.
“But the surprise here is that while a decision was not taken where to infuse the reduced sum, some of us were surprised to see that so many projects were passed on to the president for assent, which he declined.
“The implication is that if the president did not insist on details, most National Assembly members would not have had the opportunity to know what went behind them.
“For instance, in the agric sector, which I am conversant with, 386 projects unknown
to many of us were inserted, and totaled about N12.6 billion.
“Out of this, while N5.3 billion of the main ministry’s budget was taken away, about N7.2 billion was infused into almost 40 agencies and parastatals of the Agric Ministry.
“We agree that we reduced the budget, but who infused these bogus sums into the projects without the knowledge of others is the question here. So, I am poised to raise the issue when we meet because it is betrayal of many angles.
“This is more so that looking at the N7.2 billion infused into the agencies, only a paltry sum of N2.3 billion was allocated to the South, while the remaining N4.3 was allocated to the North.”