• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Ningi saga: Akpabio constituency allocated N90bn by agric ministry

Ningi saga: Akpabio constituency allocated N90bn by agric ministry

Over N90 billion worth of projects was allocated exclusively within the constituency of Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President in the 2024 budget of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

An analysis of the budget shows that a significant chunk of the projects are outside the mandate of the ministry. BudgIT, a civic-tech organization warns that the allocation does not only surpasses the ministry’s capacity but also raises concerns about potential economic stagnation.

Akpabio represents the North West Senatorial District in Akwa Ibom State which covers 10 local government areas which comprise Abak, Essien, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Ikono, Ikot Ekpene, Ini, Obot, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun.

An analysis of the ministry’s budget shows that Akpabio’s district received at least 280 projects, the highest chunk of the allocation to Akwa Ibom state, but no fewer than 15 projects were allocated to other Senatorial districts

A breakdown of the Budget shows that , N7. 291 billion was allocated for the construction and equipping of Information Communication and Technology Centres ; N395 million for the Construction and equipping of Community schools; N957 million for the supply of sewing machine, hairdressing/barbing equipment, and deep freezers ; N50 million for the construction of district head palace; N4 billion for Construction of police stations.

N12.721 billion for the construction of roads within communities and supply transformers; N28.111 billion for the construction of roads within communities: N3.111 billion for the provision of farm implements, motorcycles, tricycles, welding machine to artisans, and buses

Others are N 4.538 billion for the empowerment materials and training to women and youths; and provision of grants; N474 million for the provision of security cars; N1.286 billion for the provision of educational materials to selected schools; N1.220 billion for the provision of medical supplies and equipment to health centres; N2.996 billion for starter packs for youths and women

Also included is N7. 551bn billion for the drilling and provision of solar powered boreholes and street lights; N1.095 bn for Workspace and farm stalls; N475 million for development of Agricultural value chains; N4.090 billion for construction and equipping of Primary Healthcare Centres; N4.701bn for construction of Town Halls/ equipping and construction of community centres; N1.565bn for provision, and installation of transformers; N1.2 billion for construction of intensive care unit, N1.5 billion for erosion control; N691 million for the distribution of grains to cushion the impact of hunger.

Businessday observed that in its budget proposal, the ministry focused mainly on its core mandate , but after it was reviewed by the National Assembly, various projects were inserted.
BudgIT highlights that many of these projects fall outside the ministry’s core responsibilities and are seemingly tailored to the political interests of lawmakers rather than addressing the nation’s developmental needs.

Of particular concern is the lack of technical capacity within the ministry to efficiently execute these projects, leading to a trail of poorly executed initiatives across the country. BudgIT emphasizes that such misallocation of resources not only results in waste but also undermines the ministry’s ability to drive economic growth and enhance citizens’ welfare.

Iniobong Usen, a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at BudgIT, underscored the discrepancy between the ministry’s original mandate and the inserted projects, stating that renaming the ministry to focus on food security should have aligned its objectives more closely with national priorities.

Speaking with BusinessDay, he noted that lawmakers previously hid under the guise that the ministry’s previous name, “Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development ” to insert all manner of projects.

He expressed concerns that despite President Bola Tinubu renaming it to repurpose its mandate, which is food security, a critical aspect of the economy, lawmakers still insert projects outside the mandate of the ministry.

The implication of this for him is that, when funds are disbursed, the ministry will be left to compete with projects around its core mandate and that of lawmakers.

This will consequently affect performance of the ministry in driving economic growth and generating the much needed revenue for government to offset its loan and improve standard of living of citizens.

“Initially, they used to insert this project under the guise of the ministry being a federal ministry of agriculture and rural development. So under the guise of ‘rural development’, they will insert road construction projects , community town halls, boreholes, street lights, and the likes. But the ministry has been renamed to be the federal ministry of Agriculture and food security. Meaning that the President was trying to repurpose that ministry for the core mandate it was set up to do. So, for it to continue to operate as a community development outfit is one that doesn’t augur well with us.

“By the time the funds come in for the ministry to implement these project, the ministry competes with the National Assembly on what projects to implement.

BudgIT, in its report on Senator Ningi’s Allegations and Indiscriminate Insertions in the 2024 Budget released by on Wednesday, noted that the ministry of Agriculture and Security has the highest number of insertions by lawmakers.

An estimated 30 percent of projects worth N632bn were inserted in the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget, raising its capital budget from N332bn to N963bn.

“How will these agencies, without the requisite knowledge regarding these projects, properly monitor and appraise performance?”, the organization queried in the report.

The report was released in response to the claims by Abdul Ningi, a lawmaker representing Bauchi Central that over N3 trillion are not traceable to any projects in the 2024 budget totalling N28.77 trillion.

The BudgIT has since backed that claims by Ningi who has now been suspended by the Senate for three months that there is no breakdown for N3.7 trillion allocation

The Organisation, however warned that this is against one of the core principles of
public budgeting which instructs that all expenditure breakdowns be presented in the same budget document.

In response to these findings, BudgIT has called for urgent measures to address the issue. Firstly, they advocate for the President to issue an Executive Order prohibiting agencies from accepting projects outside their mandate.