Presidency’s N137b virement not listed as Senate, Reps return

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  • As FG told: Oil revenue shouldn’t be used to finance devt

An executive proposal  for the virement of N135.6billion in the 2017 budget for critical infrastructure, including rail projects and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway,is not listed on the order paper as the National Assembly returns today from a two-month recess.

The lawmakers, who went on recess on July 27, may discuss the raging issue of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the restructuring of the polity.

Divergent views are being expressed on these issues by stakeholders, including the lawmakers.

Apart from the addresses by the presiding officers – Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara – two bills are to go through third reading in the House of Representatives. They are the National Roads Fund Bill and the Medical Residency Bill.

Then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on July 20 wrote to the lawmakers, seeking for a virement of N135, 643,018,749 in the 2017 budget to enable the government fund its priority projects and programmes in the 2017 fiscal year.

Osinbajo’s letter indicated that the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and 13 ministries would be affected.

Osinbajo explained that the virement was part of the agreement reached between the Presidency and leadership of the National Assembly prior to the signing of the N7.441 trillion budget into law.

He noted that N46, 004,049,292 was to be vired in projects within the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; N66 billion was to be vired within projects of the Ministry of Transportation.

According to him, sources of the virements are N33.247 billion from Ministry of Transportation; N3, 181,973,545 from Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; N14, 130,719,780 from Office of the Secretary to the Government of Federation; N5 billion from Office of the National Security Adviser; N5, 009,244,926 from Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and N5, 494,065,749 from Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.

The then Acting President added that N1 billion was to be vired within projects of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; N7, 698,811,674 from Federal Ministry of Interior and N80, 500,000 from Ministry of Trade and Investment; N3.150 billion from Ministry of Defence; N770 million from Federal Ministry of Education; N1.7 billion from the Federal Capital Territory Administration and N1.3 billion from Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.

Other sources include: N1 billion from the Federal Ministry of Health; N735, 035,00 from office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; N1, 093,579,983 from Ministry of Labour and Employment; N729 million from Ministry of Information and Culture; N734 million from Ministry of Communication and Technology; N2, 387,541,000 from Ministry of Water Resources; N1 billion from Federal Ministry of Mines and Steels Development; N241, 001,800 from Federal Ministry of Environment.

Senate spokesman Sabi Abdullahi in a statement listed the priority areas to include: the passage of the three petroleum industry bills; social justice bills like the Jungle Justice Bill; employment-related bills like the Occupational Safety Bill and the Existing Vacancies Bill.

Meanwhile,  the Federal Government has been advised to exercise caution in the use of oil and gas revenue to finance the country’s development.

This was even as the Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Environment and Habitat, Mr. Obinna Chidoka, stated that the Federal Government had allowed itself to be spoon-fed by International Oil Companies operating in the country, who determine revenues that accrue to the country.

Speaking at a workshop on the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, NNRC, Benchmarking Exercise Report, a former Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, said too much emphasis should not be placed on using oil revenue to finance Nigeria’s development, because it is a wasting asset and would be depleted one day. Ekpo, who is also a member of the Expert Advisory Panel of the NNRC, said instead, the country’s oil revenues should be used to build infrastructures, as was done in other countries.

“That is what we want to see, because in the next 40 years, there will not be oil, according to predictions. Forty years might look far but it is around the corner,” he declared. He further stated that the country should focus more on local refining of crude oil, while only the surplus quantity should be exported.

“First of all, we should begin to emphasis more on refining our crude at home and then whatever surplus we have, we send abroad, like we did in the 1980s.. People forget that, we used to refine our crude oil and use some. Right now, all we do is we keep exporting crude oil.Although the petroleum industry brings us revenue, we are not even sure it is enough, because its output is informed by foreign companies.

That is why I argued that beginning from now, let’s use the oil money to build infrastructure, so that years to come, we can say oil money did this.

Except we do that, we will not get much.” Also speaking, Chairman, House Committee on Environment and habitat, Mr. Obinna Chidoka, who was represented by a member of the committee, Mr. Henry Nwawuba, lamented that Nigeria had over the years not positioned itself to truly benefit from the petroleum industry.

Nation with additional report from Vanguard