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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Finance minister Zainab Ahmed lands in trouble over N206bn budget padding in humanitarian ministry

Nigeria’s finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, has been summoned by the senate to explain an allocation of N206 billion inserted into the 2023 budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The invitation followed a claim by Sadiya Umar Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, that her Ministry was unaware of how the N206 billion was inserted into its 2023 budget.

Farouk, who appeared before the Senate Panel on Special Duties to defend the 2023 Budget, on Monday, November 21, 2022, explained that her Ministry had requested some projects for the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and National Social Safety Net Project in the 2022 budget.

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Trouble started when one of the Committee members, Senator Elisha Abbo, asked the Minister about the controversial N206 billion in her budget.

But, the Minister in her response, 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, we are also going to clarify from the ministry of finance to know why this increased, despite the fact that the previous year, the money was not even released for the project.

“So we will get the details and then send them 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.

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“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 the world bank.”

Shocked by the response, Senator Abbo 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, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, therefore, moved a motion to summon the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to explain to the Committee the controversial sum.

”I want to move a motion that the minister of finance should appear before this committee to furnish this committee with details of what they intend to do with N206 billion in the 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”, Senator Yusuf said.

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