By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has lamented slow release of budgetary allocation for the Ministry to achieve massive implementation of programmes and projects to increase food production.
Ogbeh stated this during the visit paid him by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, which was led by its chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on its oversight function on assessment of 2016 budget implementation by the ministry.
The Minister disclosed that the ministry has only received N882 billion, which represents four per cent of its budgetary allocation of the 2016 budget for the agricultural sector, which he described as miniside for implementation of programmes and projects.
He said: “We inform you (Senate Committee on Agriculture) that the budget has been too slow, after the approval of the budget in May we have to go through the processes of advertisement, bidding and we have to follow due process all the way, and believe me a lot of those processes have lasted a few days ago.
“Because there are close to 7, 000 bids, out of it we earned N70 million, which was also paid into The Single Treasury, TSA, account. Going through the bids took us sometime, and we did not want to skip any of the processes because we don’t want to break any of the laws of the land.
“It is about now capital expenditure is beginning, very late, and it is important if we cut short the processes, and one of the reasons is because there is not much money in circulation.
“The budget under the zero-budget system is if there is cash and yet you can’t spend until the processes are carried out. Maybe about N80 billion is to flow into the economy through contracts and programmes implementation. So this is where we are. The way the budget came in May and the processes you can’t by-pass them and we are not happy about that.”
According to the Minister, the ministry could not be granted all it requested for capital projects, because of other teething problems, for which the main ministry got N33, 668bn, while 16 research institutes got N6.2bn, Universities and colleges got N3.9bn, the three cooperative colleges N7.9 million, and eight agencies and units got N9bn, a total of N46bn.
“In the first quota we got N21bn representing 54 per cent of appropriation for the main ministry that was released and in the month of July. The late release of budget release slowed down our performance because of the Procurement Act of 2007, we have to go through the processes a little bit earlier.
“However, the Minister expressed optimism of the sector and said, “The National Bureau of Statistics published the performance of the economy a month and half ago of the second quota and agriculture recorded a growth of 4.5 per cent in an economy that is under recession, and we may be approaching 6.2 per cent when the result is next published. And that means Nigerians have responded to the call on agriculture than any other sector in the history of this country.”