According to reports, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, yesterday, said the Federal Government would put forward the sum of N6,866,335,052,740 as 2017 budget.
She told members of the Senate Committee on Finance, led by its chairman, John Owan Enoh (PDP, Cross River Central), that government would present the figure because it spends over N3 trillion on salaries, pensions and debt services, leaving a paltry amount for capital projects.
The committee members were on an oversight visit to her ministry.
Adeosun said government’s efforts at realising money from revenue generating agencies were being hampered by high-level corruption in agencies, especially the Nigerian Customs Service, and solicited intervention of the National Assembly in curbing leakage.
She said: “Salaries on their own are about N1.8 trillion to N1.9 trillion. And by the time you add the Judiciary, the National Assembly, pensions, and others, you are at N2 trillion. Add debt service, which is about N1.4 trillion. So, if you want to bring down the size of the budget, you won’t be able to do very many capital projects.
“That’s the problem, and that has been the vicious circle that has been affecting Nigeria for so long. By the time we pay salaries, pay debts, nothing is left. So, I think for the next few years, we have to take a gamble, as a nation. We must take a gamble that if we fix our roads, fix power, can we generate more than that additional cost? I think we can.”
Enoh said the visit was “driven by the collective decision of the Senate, a few weeks ago, that all its standing committees embark on oversight visits to all ministries, departments and agencies of government.”
He said: “This is October. The Medium Term Expenditure Framework is already sent to the National Assembly for approval, so that the 2017 budget can come. We have a few revenue challenges; above all is the performance of the independent revenue of government. So, we think that the minister would take advantage of this meeting and bring us to speed on a few of these things.”
The committee berated the minister over what it described as poor handling of agencies under her watch, resulting in monumental leakage. “There are a lot of drain pipes and leakages in the Customs. I don’t think the ministry, under your watch, has given sufficient attention to this,” said Enoh.
Adeosun admitted that the Nigerian Customs Service was financially bankrupt. She said her ministry was working with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, to correct its financial fate.
“On the issue of Customs, we are working very closely with them. They have some challenges. The general contraption in the economy has really affected their level of input-forex scarcity and so on. They have some leakages. We are working with them to try and block these. Largely, all their scanners are not working, except the one in Idiroko.”