Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, says the ministry is working hard to ensure that the 2018 budget proposal will be sent to the National Assembly in January.
Udoma, represented by Mr Aso Vakporoye, Deputy Director, Economic Growth in the ministry, spoke in Abuja on Wednesday during the public presentation and capacity building on 2017 agriculture budget.
“For 2018, the Federal Government part of it has been concluded with hope that it will be submitted to the National Assembly in January.
“Government is putting more effort to address the issue of dry season farming because when the budget is passed on time, it will enable it provide funds for farmers promptly,’’ he said.
Udoma said with the effort of relevant stakeholders, the issue of late passage of budget would be addressed.
Mr Ken Ukaoha, President, National Association of Nigeria Traders (NANTS), said that the agricultural sector presently contributed more than 22 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Ukaoha, represented by Mr Nwalabu Legborsi, Head of Legal of NANTS, said investment in the agricultural sector had the greatest potential to move a good number of people from poverty compared to other sectors.
“In the recent times, emphasis has been laid on the diversification of the economy, especially the agricultural sector, which employs a greater number of the country’s population.
“Some initiatives, such as consuming `Made in Nigeria’ products, have also been promoted as way to encourage domestic production of agricultural goods for the country,’’ he said.
Ukaoha said the association would engage government to improve the quantity and quality of investment in the agriculture sector through the instrumentality of the budget.
According to him, stakeholders input have somewhat changed the pattern of cut and paste budgeting in the country.
“Through analysis of the Federal Agricultural budgets, especially with Ministry of Agriculture as the major focus, obvious savings have been made through the slashing of frivolous budgeted funds when the previous and preceding years appropriations are compared,’’ he said.
Ukaoha said that the agricultural sector was underfunded when compared with other countries of similar socioeconomic status.
He said the meeting would x-ray the 2017 agricultural budget and how it affected the rural small scale framers who were the major producers of the food products.
Mr Tunde Jimoh, the Budget Research Consultant of the association, said Nigeria was a net importer of foods and its farmers could not compete with their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
Jimoh said agriculture was the least funded when compared with other sectors.
He said the country needed to adopt new technologies to produce more food and review the funding for agriculture. Jimoh said that most states had not embraced the idea of open budget system.
According to him, Open Budget Initiative is a global research and advocacy programme to promote public access to budget information and the adoption of accountable budget systems.