National Assembly Committee on Information and Culture, yesterday expressed their dissatisfaction with the huge differences in figures in 2016 budget proposal of the Ministry of Information and Culture presented for consideration and passage.
To this end, the lawmakers returned budget proposal to the Ministry officials, asking to go and clarify as well as harmonious the figures before returning it for defence.
Before the commencement of the meeting proper, the lawmakers demanded an overview of the performance of the 2015 budget. Though, not without shortcomings particularly in capital project, the legislators expressed satisfaction with the record 90 percent implementation of the previous year budget.
However, the Ministry’s N5.2 billion 2016 budget proposal apparently shows a difference of N1.7 billion higher than 2015 budget.
According to the breakdown of the budget, N3. 2 billion is allocated for Personal cost, N852. 5 million for Overhead Cost . Similarly, N4 billion is allocated for recurrent and N1.1billion for Capital expenditures.
Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Enyinnaya Abaribe, requested that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, confirm that the content of what is presented to them is same with what they have in their kitty, apparently reacting to the mild drama that occurred recently when the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, disowned the Ministry proposal in the course of the defence owing to huge differentials in figures.
Meanwhile, the Committee Chairman who presided over the meeting of five members categorically rejected the budget of some of the agencies in the Ministry, requesting that necessary corrections and harmonization with other concerned government agencies be carried out before the next adjourned date.
Abaribe representing Abia South in the Senate blamed the Minister for not taking a second look at the proposals presented by the heads of agencies and parastatals under him before submitting same to the National Assembly. He then directed that the minister to return to his team and harmonize the figures, as well as make necessary corrections before returning for the defence of the budget.
In a swift response to that, the Minister defended the officials, explaining that the errors in figures was not the fault of the officials. “I have held meetings with the officials and I was satisfied with their presentation. I believe something went wrong somewhere but we will correct it before the adjourned date.” he explained.
A member of the Committee, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, specifically lambasted the National Film Corporation and National Film and Video Censors Board for their failure in protecting the history materials of Nigeria.
Sen Bruce representing Bayelsa East in the Senate promised to support the parastatal in their budget on the condition that they would waste no time in introducing innovations that would safeguard the history of Nigeria for generations unborn.
The lawmaker reminded the Ministry of the role of radio in information dissemination, particularly as it concerns the war against terrorism and other advocacies as well as reorientation of Nigerians.
On advisory note, Senator Dino Melaye suggested that the National Orientation Agency, NOA, resubmit its budget with emphasis on, not only anti-corruption or insecurity advocacies but also on voter education, against the obvious voter apathy as witnessed in 2015 general elections and other subsequent elections.