Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq has said that the N206billion ‘padded’ in her Ministry’s 2023 Budget by the Ministry of Finance was for the purchase of Military Equipment. The Minister told Senate Committee on Special Duties that she was surprised when investigation by her at the Ministry of Finance showed that the money was meant for the military equipment. The minister said this in answer to a member of the Committee, Senator Lilian Ekwunife, who asked the Minister whether she had been able to know the source of the N206 billion in her Ministry’s Budget she disowned the last time she appeared before the panel.
Answering the question the Minister said, “on the N206 billion, when we saw it, we didn’t understand what it was meant for because the explanation wasn’t clear. If you put N206 billion in Humanitarian Affairs Ministry’s Budget and the narration is purchase of military equipment, definitely something is wrong. That is why I said I’m not going to say anything about it until we get clarification from the Ministry of Finance. If we had requested for N206 billion for a different project and then in the appropriation bill, it is reading something else, we will not own it.” When the minister was asked further whether she requested N206 billion for another project, she came with another narration, saying, “It is not exactly that way, and that’s why we need that clarity from Finance ministry”.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Sani Gwarzo, however courted the wrath of the Committee’s Chairman when he described the padding as a minor mistake, just as his statement did not go down well with Yusuf who shouted at him and asked him to sit down. Recall that the Minister was at the National Assembly last week to defend her Ministry’s 2023 Budget before the Senate Committee on Special Duties. She explained that the Ministry requested for some projects for the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and National Social Safety Net Project in 2022 budget, but that funds for the proposed projects were not released. She had however said the Ministry was surprised that the money inserted, was now ten times higher than the 2023 Budget of the Ministry.
One of the Committee members Senator Elisha Abbo ( APC Adamawa North) , had discovered the anomaly and asked the Minister to explain the N206bn in her Ministry’s budget. The Minister who expressed surprise had said, “Yes we made mention of the projects for 2022 which was not released and part of it was part for the NEDC. The money was not released and now we have seen it recurring by almost 10 folds and we are also going to clarify from the ministry of finance to know why this increase despite the fact that the previous year, the money was not even released for the project. So we will get the details then send to you on that. On upscaling of the National Social Safety Net Project. These projects under the national social safety nests, the condition cash transfer, the updating of the national social register and the rapid response register as well to cushion the effect of inflation.
“This is all I can say for this. I cannot really give full details of how this amount is going to be utilised because it is something that was negotiated between the ministry of finance and world bank.” Abbo had expressed shock at the Minister’s response and said that the country would not continue to borrow money and plunge the country into debt. He had said, ” This is serious. We cannot continue to borrow money and plunge this country into debt for our children to come and pay without investing in what they will see.” The Chairman of the Committee, therefore moved a motion to summon Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed to come and give explanation about the N206bn inserted in the Ministry budget. Yusuf said, ” I want to move a motion that the minster of finance should appear before this committee to furnish this committee with details of what they intend to do with N206 billion in 2023 budget. Now that the Minister has said that she is not in charge of negotiation, of course she is not, the Minister of Finance is responsible.”