ABUJAâ€”DESPITE aÂ presidential directive to all ministers recently that any of them whose memo was discussed and approved at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting must wait and attend the post-FEC media briefing to answer technical questions from newsmen on memos emanating from their respective ministries, eight ministers yesterday shun the weekly FEC briefing.
At yesterdayâ€™s meeting, presided over by Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, following President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s two-days state visit to Brazil, the council announced that as part of the implementation of the 2009 fiscal law, government has released N46.6 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources; thereby standing out the ministry as one of the highest earner from the financial year.
The FEC meeting also disclosed that most of the 72 projects worth N47 billion as contained in the 2009 budget of the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs were actually ongoing projects of existing ministries but were transferred to the Ministry Niger-Delta Affairs.
The ministers who disregarded the presidential directive are the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Alhaji Sayyad Abba Ruma, and his Minister of State, Mrs. Fidelia Njenze; Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Mulktar, and his Minister of State, Mr. Remi Babalola; Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Obong Uffot Ekaette, and his Minister of State, Elder Godswill Orubebe; Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio; and the Minister Planning, Dr Shamsudeen Usman.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, who was alone at the briefing as she was also abandoned by her Minister of State, Alhaji Bilbis Inkra, said yesterday’s meeting as with every last Wednesday of the month, devoted time to assess progress made in the implementation of the 2009 budget.
She added that the exercise was carried out on five ministries including Agriculture and Water resources, Finance, Niger-Delta Affairs, Transport and National Planning.
Akunyili, who only succeeded in reading out part of the successes and failure reports of the five ministries that were assessed by FEC, was visibly frustrated as she could not field technical questions from State House Correspondents on how the funds so far received by the ministries were expended on various projects as claimed in their respective documents submitted to council; because she could only account for the activities of her ministry.
Although no reason was given for the absence of the eight ministers at the post-FEC briefing, even when they were all at the meeting, Akunyili only managed to calm frayed nerves of newsmen who were anxious to ask questions to enhance their reports; pleading that she will invite the minister to take questions from them on the outstanding issues by next week.
On agriculture, according to Akunilil, despite the huge fund so far received, the crop sub-sector which involves land cadastre programme and procurement equipment in 3 states with an allocation of N104.92million has only recorded 10 per cent.
Reclamation of Problem silo which was allocated N455.5million only 10 per cent achievement in this sector has reached; while the live stock sub sector worth N3.4billion has reached 36 per cent successes. She added that on dams and irrigation programmes, the sum of N1.405billion was allocated; achievement so far in this sector is 10 per cent.
2009 Appropriation for ministry of agriculture and water resources is N138.928billion and out of this N46.687billion has been released while N92.241billion is outstanding.
The Niger Delta ministry, she said, has a total of 72 capital projects approved with a total budgetary allocation of N48billion. Of these six are ongoing projects with a budgetary provision of N28.42billion. Four of the ongoing projects are contracts for the construction of East-West roads which was previously under the ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development costing N28-33billion.
The other two are conservation projects previously in the ministry of Environment costing N92.8million.
There are 66 new projects being executed at the cost of N19.58billion, thirty-six of the new projects involved road construction at a total sum of N6.72billion. From the level of implementation of new projects under this ministry, the minister of Information and Communications said, â€œit is clear that about 75per cent of the total appropriation is on the 40 roads projects.
She also stated that the East-West road section1 is about 26.4 per cent completed, the section II, 6per cent, section III 22.7 per cent and section IV 10 per cent.
She however assured that by December, 2009, the East-West road project would have reached 35 per cent completion; saying that that other roads including Niger Delta coastal road would have reached 10 per cent completion by the end of the year.
The design of Gele Gele sea port will also reach 10 per cent, construction of skills acquisition centers with specialized focus in the fields of oil and gas which will be of international standard. This is necessary so that we can train unemployed youths on various skills so that they can be empowered to work in the oil industryâ€.
She however noted that the issue of security and inadequate budgetary provision coupled with delayed releases of funds has been impacting on the implementation of various projects in this ministry. Provision of adequate security which the government is handling, timely release of approved funds and others will enable the ministry deliver on its mandate.
In the ministry of Transport, Akunyili said the purchase and modernization of 25 new locomotives which was allocated the sum of N2.345billion, 30 per cent level of completion has been achieved. While 90 per cent has been achieved in the minor rehabilitation of tracks and bridges in which N2billion was allocated.
The minister also stated that the contract for the equipping of workshops, rehabilitation of 120 coaches and wagons, procurement of three rail cranes, completion of Ajaokuta Warri line, the completion of station signals and communication for Itakpe-Ajaokuta to Warri line has reached advanced stage. The outstanding debt of N6.5billion, according to Akunyili, has been paid for the completion of Ajaokuta-Warri rail line.
The challenges faced by the ministry of finance according to her includes lack of understanding of relevant regulations by MDAs, delays in processing payments by MDAs, lack of eefctive planning and procurement by MDAs.
To address the challenges she said that the council agreed that capacity building be organized for the MDAs and also planning, procurement and documentation, accountability and the consequence impact on all operators.