…Says he never lobbied to be Minister
…Gives reasons why 2019 budget won’t be fully implemented
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige yesterday said that the cabinet members have been warned to bring back the budget circle from January to December.
Senator Ngige who resumed duty on Thursday alongside the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Senator Tayo Alausadura also said that about 60 per cent of the 2019 budget may not be implemented as a result of what he called manipulations in the course of passage and may be rolled over to the 2020 budget.
The Minister who had running battle with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, at the last quarter of his first tenure in the ministry over the headship of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, enthused that he never lobbied to be returned as Minister.
He said his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari was purely based on his record of performance in his first coming.
According to him, “We have been warned that we must bring back the January/December budget circle. Therefore, the President of the Senate and officers of the National Assembly have, in one voice requested from us that the budget should come in September and once they get it in September, they will give it to us in December.
“So, we must do our part and what that means is that parastatals themselves must submit their own budget here and come and defend it. We are going to be serious about that because we hear of budget padding because parastatals invite Assembly members to come and carry padded things into their places.
“We must stop that and we have to be serious about that any parastatal under this ministry that does that will be sanctioned so that we can live within our means and we can stay within what we have proposed for the work of the administration.
“Section 80 and 81 talks about the budget and how it can be used. If we do our work well, it will be a co-administered thing. We can set up committees and agreed on how it can be done so that it does not suffer distortion out there.
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“Part of the reasons why our budget has suffered is that once it suffered distortion down there at the National Assembly, the Executive is reluctant to implement it because they will feel that foreign items have been introduced into the budget.
“It is even appropriate that before we do down to the National Assembly to defend our budget, we should have met with our committee to agree on items or what you called budget lines are not supposed to be tampered with by the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly can tamper with figures and amount because they have the power of the purse. But line items are not supposed to be tampered with because it is the ministry that does the planning of the project, the scaling and the final plans as well as the financial implication.
“The executive must take the lead by putting its house in order. So, I am sounding a note of warning that we must immediately start our budget planning to ensure that we submit it by September.
“The call circular from the budget office will come, but before it comes, you can be doing your work because you already know that the 2019 budget has not been aggressively executed.
“From the retreat we had, we now know that about 60 per cent of it has to go back into the 2020 budget and rolled over. That was agreed and so, we can start our work ahead.”
Senator Ngige who insisted that he never lobbied to be reappointed as Minister said “I am happy to come back home. A lot has happened within the last few weeks. Many people were busy here in Abuja lobbying to be appointed Minister. But I was not around because I had to take my well-deserved vacation.
“I travelled to Geneva on the invitation of a few of my African friends and from there I went on vacation in the United States of America. I came back a few days before the announcement of the new Ministers.
“The President reserve the right to make appointments because the constitution gives him that power. We are all product of the constitution. I have taken an oath to defend the constitution and I will discharge my responsibilities without fear or favour.
“My reappointment and redeployment to the Ministry of Labour and Employment is an endorsement of the work I have done here which is not personal, but collective. We have differences and I drive people because it is my nature.
Speaking on industrial relations between government and Labour unions, Senator Ngige said during his first tenure as minister, he gave the government time frame within which to implement agreements with unions in other to maintain a stable industrial harmony in the country.
He said the disagreement between him and the leadership of the NLC shortly before leaving office was a family disagreement which has been resolved in a family way, adding that everything possible will be done to ensure that the wounds arising from the disagreement healed permanently.
He also disclosed that the Ministry will be engaging all stakeholders in the industrial relation space in the country to ensure that industrial peace prevailed, stressing that anytime unions embark on strike, it affects the economy of the country negatively.
Also speaking, the Minister of State in the ministry, Senator Alausadura said even though he has never had any Labour and Employment experience, he will have no reason to disagree with his brother Minister.
He said having two Ministers in a ministry means that they have to work as a team to actualise the programmes of the government.