Reps commence debate on 2022 N16.39trn budget today, suspend plenary for defence

The House of Representatives Committee on Culture and Tourism has resolved to investigate alleged 33 per cent reduction in the 2021 budgetary allocation for the Culture and Tourism sector.

The resolution followed a submission made by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Thursday in Abuja at the 2022 budget defence session of the committee.

The minister told the committee members that he was not very happy with the parliament for chopping off 33 per cent of the budget component earmarked for culture and tourism.

“I am not very happy with the national Assembly sir, with due respect sir; because a whopping 33 per cent of my budget was chopped off.

“I proposed three billion and they took N1.1 billion out of it and by that, I was paralysed completely, there is nothing I could do.

“The National Assembly is like the Supreme Court, once they give the verdict, there is no other court to appeal to; so I am extremely distressed, I complained that the proposal was small, the National Assembly made it even worse,’’ he said.

The minister said but for God’s grace and for the fact that the ministry went outside budgetary provisions to source funds, nothing would have been achieved in the area of culture and tourism in 2021.

Accounting for the 2021 budget, Mohamed said that N4.49 billion was allocated for personnel cost and that from January to September, the sum of N2.83 billion was released.

The minister said that N9.47 million was earmarked for overhead cost but N6.38 million was so far released, representing 67 per cent.

He said that N788.35 million was budgeted for capital expenditure and N435 million has been so far released, representing 55 per cent, adding that the sector was able to generate N29.59 million in 2021.

For 2022 operations, Mohammed said that at total of N7.84 billion was proposed out of which N3.90 billion is for personnel cost.

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He said that the sum of N900 million is for overhead cost and N772 million for capital expenditure, adding that capital expenditure common to information and culture sector of the ministry is N645.7 million.

Responding, the Chairman of the committee, Rep. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama (PDP-Edo), said for clarity purposes, the budget as proposed in 2021 did not leave the committee with anything more than 5 per cent alteration.

He explained that there are benchmarks for movement of funds within the budget and that the committee adhered to the systems, procedures and guidelines set by the parliament.

“After this budget defence, I will have to set up a small committee your budget for 2021 as alleged that N1.1 billion which represent 33 per cent was taken off your budget.

“The committee will look into every segment of your budget, every line item in the 2021 budget, especially those that are related to culture and tourism in your budget so that we are on the same page,’’ he said.

The chairman said he does not think that such deductions were made from the budgetary allocation for culture and tourism, saying that the investigation will nip the issue in the bud.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Ogbeide-Ihama said the whole essence of budget defence was to see how the Executive and the Legislature could help one another in the area of culture and tourism.

According to him, yearly in my opening remarks, I always urge the Federal Government to look outside the oil sector as the primary source of sustenance.

“There are countries in this would today that their oil is culture, there are countries in this world today that their oil is tourism and we are endowed with both sectors and unfortunately we are not taking full advantage of it.

“The ministry has its limitations, the sector requires funding, again, I will for the sixth budget defence session use the opportunity to call on the Federal Government to look towards this sector and see how funding and attention can be given to culture and tourism.

“Because we can create employment, empowerment and it can also drive unity, this country has never been this divided as it is today and it is apparent; culture is another way of bringing all the diverse tribes together in form of festivals and competitions.

“All of these can bring unity, employment, and skill acquisition,’’ he said.

The chairman promised that the committee will do all within its powers to boost the budgetary allocation for the sector and urged the minister to also influence Federal Executive Council (FEC) to approve funds for the sector.

(NAN)

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