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Senate uncovers N16bn hidden vote in environment ministry’s budget

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Olujimi, Faseyi vow to reclaim 'stolen' mandate

The Senate Committee on the Environment has uncovered the sum of N16 billion allegedly smuggled into the 2022 budget of the Ministry of Environment.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu made this known on Monday before the Appropriation Panel to defend his committee’s 2022 budget report.

Noting that the same anomaly was discovered last year, the Senator said the money was meant to service loans believed to have been collected by the Federal Government on behalf of some states being ravaged by erosion. He noted that the ministry had described the anomaly as a mistake.

Ekweremadu explained that the loans were supposed to be paid by the states for a period of 10 years, starting from 2023.

According to him, the loans would be deducted from the allocations to beneficiary states and not from the service wide vote or the budgets of agencies of the Environment Ministry.

He explained that last year, there was N6 billion in the environment budget for the servicing of a multilateral loan regarding erosion control.

“About N1.5bn of it was released to the environment and later the ministry of finance wrote, saying it was a mistake that it was supposed to be from the service wide vote from where we service most of the loans,” he added.

Ekweremadu continued: “So, we took it in good faith but surprisingly, we now got another N16bn for the same reason from the ministry of environment. However, there was a directive from the leadership of the National Assembly that we should not tamper with monies provided for multilateral loans.”

Furthermore, the senator said they had invited the ministry, which said by the time they got their envelope and wanted to distribute to agencies, there was no such amount

The Chairman explained that by the time the money came to the National Assembly, there was this N16 billionn for the servicing of the new map loan.

“We asked when this money is due for servicing, they said they have a 10-year moratorium; we can’t be providing for it until 2023.

“We also found out that about 21 states are benefiting from it and it is these states that will pay the loan and not the Federal Government.

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“So, it is either we wait until 2023 before making provisions for it or we ask the states to start making provisions for it if they have to pay now.

“Even if the Federal Government has to pay, it has to go through the service wide votes, not the respective budgets of the MDAs; it’s wrong. The anomaly is untidy,” Ekweremadu added.

On his part, the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, praised Ekweremadu’s panel for its diligence and meticulousness to the assignment committed to it.

He said the report submitted was precise and straight to the point and they are satisfied with your report.

Jibrin said: “What you are doing in this committee is commendable. It shows that you are doing your oversight properly.”

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