FG releases N654bn for capital projects

• As Reps query payment of $470m failed CCTV project, Stamp Duty revenue • Says AMCON overstretched with debt burde

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on Thursday, confirmed that a total sum of N654 billion has so far been released for implementation of capital projects through various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as at October 2019.

Mrs Ahmed disclosed this during the Ministry’s 2019/2020 budget defence held at the instance of the House Committee on Finance chaired by Hon. Abiodun Faleke, who expressed concern over $470 million debt burden from the failed Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) and other frivolous line items such as telephone charges in the annual budget estimates/Appropriation Act for the MDAs.

In the same vein, the lawmakers who frowned at the level of impunity being perpetrated by revenue-generating agencies on the payment of 25% operating surplus to government coffer, called for review of the provisions which enable the MDAs to spend 75% of the revenue generated despite approved budget for personnel, overhead and capital projects on yearly basis.

The Committee also demanded full details of the bailouts given to States, private sector especially in the power sector as well as banks.

The lawmakers expressed displeasure over the unethical practice wherein commercial banks convert dollars sent by Nigerians in Diaspora to naira to boost their foreign domiciliary accounts, as well as the stringent conditions imposed on Nigeria by the Chinese government on loans obtained to fund some infrastructural projects funded in Nigeria.

Speaking further on the 2019 budget performance, the Minister explained that the debt servicing is 100%, overhead expenditure paid for six months while critical MDAs overhead including NYSC and Unity Schools stand at 90%.

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She also assured the lawmakers of the commitment to ensure that capital expenditure attains 40% at the end of the year.

On the repayment of the loan obtained to fund the CCTV project, the Minister who confirmed the repayment of the loan, however, noted that the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA stands in a better position to give an update on the status of the project.

She added that loans obtained from the China Exim Bank is at 3% interest rate for major projects being executed including rehabilitation of 4 Airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt; while the conditions attached to the funding include implementation of the contracts by Chinese firms and use of Chinese personnel, just as she acknowledged the need to look into the technology transfer issue.

While responding to series of questions from the lawmakers, Mrs Ahmed who denied knowledge of accrued from Stamp Duty, however, stressed that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has made the commitment to compel all the commercial banks operating in Nigeria to report actual collections from Stamp Duty henceforth.

On the ongoing efforts to boost revenue accruing to the Federation, the Minister informed the lawmakers of plans to expand and double the current taxpayers as well as the informal sector to 60%.

While speaking on the health status of Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the Minister assured that the bank has returned from losses to profitability level, while noting that Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is currently overstretched due to the underperforming loans.

She, however, observed that the Federal Ministry of Finance has intervened by issuing promissory notes to AMCON on behalf of some of the Corporate Institutions.

While noting that the State Governments have started paying back the bailouts given to them, the Minister disclosed that the debts owed by the Corporate Institutions have been bought over by AMCON.

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