Nigeria’s Director General Of Budget Defends 2018 Budget Controversial Allocations

*Explains N1.1 billion Provision For Cleaning, Fumigation

*N2.21 billion For DSS Control Of Media, Others

By CLEMENT NWOJI, Abuja

The Nigeria’s Director General of Budget, Ben Akabueze, has defended some of the suspicious and controversial appropriations contained in the nation’s 2018 Budget, saying they were necessary provisions.

Some of the alleged suspicious provisions include the N1.14 billion allocation provided for the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to the President, N10 billion provision for the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, among others.

The amount of N1.14 billion made for the ONSA for the purpose of cleaning and fumigation, has attracted questions as to how the mere items could attract as much as that. Such similar provisions were considered suspicious and wasteful.

But while speaking at a dialogue session with representatives of Media and Civil Society Organizations, Akabueze explained that such items as cleaning and fumigation may not be the one ordinary persons are familiar with but involves much more than that.

He also clarified that going by the current processes through which the various Minstries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) submit their budget proposals to the Budget Office of the Federation, there is no way any form of padding could occur since after 2016 when unauthorized insertions were uncovered in the budget.

He said: “There have also been allegations of suspicious and wasteful provisions in the budget. I said earlier its good to express people’s opinion and canvass them. However, there were specific items that were labeled suspicious and wasteful. And I just want to speak on some of them.

“One of them is a N10 billion provision in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to offset part of their contractors liabilities. I don’t think that it is a secret that government owes contractors going back to several years. What the ministry had done here is to make small provision which doesn’t even clear all these liabilities run back to up to 10 years. So, I can’t see what is suspicious or wasteful about this.

There was N19.3 billion in the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for export expansion grant (EEG) which was designed to incentivize the non-oil exports. The EEG programme had been discontinued by the federal government some years back and we have deemed necessary to reinstate the scheme because we consider it necessary as part of efforts to grow non-oil exports. What has happened is that we have redesigned the scheme.”

Akabueze further cited the provision of N308 million meant for the procurement of police riot control equipment for 37 state police commands, (Federal Capital Territory inclusive ) and for Headquartes, explaining that if the amount is shared, it is less than N10 million per state police command.

On the ONSA, he said: “Cleaning and fumigation services for the Office of the National Security Adviser. Let me say here basically, we must have to admit these that for ONSA, this is indeed cleaning and fumigation but not the type you and I are familiar with because all over the world matters of national security are treated with some degree of confidentiality. So, they may be talking of about cleaning and fumigating the system of some criminal elements or whatever.

Also on N2.21 billion for social media miming suite provided for the Department of State Security (DSS), the Director General of Budget explained that the DSS was planning to implement some security protocol to curtail spread of false information (fake news) which will tend to threaten national security.

According to him, “They assured us that the intention is not to hinder freedom of information or expression.”