From Fred Itua, Abuja
SECRETARY to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, yesterday, said Federal Government may not fully implement the 2016 national budget. He said the projected revenues have dropped to between 50-60 per cent, a development he attributed to the activities of militants in the Niger Delta region.
The SGF spoke when he appeared before a joint Senate committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions; Appropriation and Finance over his comments that the Federal Government might not implement constituency projects in the 2016 budget.
“As a government, constituency projects are championed by members of the National Assembly. Like the legislature, members of the executive are politicians who canvassed for votes. Lawmakers are aware that oil barrels had dwindled to about 800,000 per day. This has led to the inability of government to finance the budget. It is the duty of government to prepare the minds of Nigerians ahead that there will be challenges in implementing the budget.
“Government based its principle on zero budgeting this year. Funds will be released to finance key projects in line with the implementation plans of the government. I will explain why it will be hard for the government to implement the budget.
“I spoke with the Minister of Budget this morning (yesterday) and I asked him the revenue base of the government. We are now receiving about 50 to 60 earnings from what we projected. Some MDAs (ministers, departmetns and parastatals) might find it impossible to implement projects appropriated in their budgets. We have to re-prioritize. I like us to understand that this is the background upon which I made that statement.
“That statement may not be palatable to the legislature or the citizens. But MDAs are facing challenges in implementing the budget based on the funds available to them,” he said.
In his introductory remarks, the SGF complained that the notice to him to appear before the joint committee was short.
“I only saw this letter this morning. I thought it was going to be Wednesday next week. I wanted my permanent secretary to write to request for another date, knowing that Wednesdays are for Federal Executive Council meetings. You gave me very short time to prepare.Taking together the lateness of the letter and the threat at the bottom of it show that it was not done in good faith. We should respect each other and give each other the time to appear,” he said.
He was, however, countered by the Senate committee chairman on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Samuel Anyanwu, who said the committee meets usually on Wednesdays. ““The Senate is expected to go on recess next week Wednesday and because of the urgency of the issue, we had to send the letter. We want the aspect of that your statement withdrawn,” he said.
Supporting Anyanwu’s position, John Enoh: “We take exception to the word ‘bad faith’. The comments apply that the Senate committee, in extending an invitation to you, acted in bad faith. If we sent the letter to you in bad faith, it means you are also here in bad faith.”
Again, the SGF retorted: “The freedom of expression is a right. While I excuse your position, I want you to note the threat in your letter. I want to put it on record that you forced me to withdraw my statement.”