Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Federal Government on Thursday said it had so far released N2.5tn out of the N6.6tn budgeted for the 2016 fiscal year.
The government also said the proposed external borrowing was for the execution of capital projects.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday sought the approval of the National Assembly to obtain foreign loans of $29.96bn between now and 2018.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, disclosed the amount of funds released when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, in company with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.
Adeosun also revealed how some agencies of government inflated their expenses, vowing that the officials involved would soon be dragged before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Finance minister, while explaining the capital releases for the 2016 budget, also informed the committee that looted funds were being recovered daily, but failed to state the actual amount so far recovered.
Udoma, while giving a breakdown of the releases, said N753bn had been released for capital projects; N117bn for statutory transfers; N135bn for service wide vote; N108bn for overhead costs; N142bn for consolidated pension; and N1.2tn for personnel cost.
Adeosun decried the obstacles before the government regarding loots stashed in Switzerland and United States of America, saying, “The process of recovering looted funds is an ongoing process; money comes in on daily basis. We have not recovered much from the money in foreign land. It is a little more difficult.
“The recovery of loot is an ongoing process. We have recovered quite considerable sums and I think the last publication of figures was done by the Minister of Information. I have to update to give you exact figures because money comes in almost on a daily basis into those accounts.”
She added, “However, the significant chunk of the loot is located in other jurisdictions and we are still battling with some of those countries. In fairness to the President, he has had a lone job of prevailing upon the countries to start to release our money. Also in Washington, we had very positive meetings on some of the Abacha loot, which is about $300m, which the Americans have now agreed will be returned to us.
“On the Swiss loot, there is now an agreement on the return of those monies. But that gives you an idea of how it’s taking time, because this is Abacha’s loot. But largely, what we have been recovering is largely loot here in the country through the EFCC and the ICPC, where they are having agreements with people and money is being returned. The foreign money is a little bit more difficult to get.”
Adeosun also said that Federal Government was finalising arrangements with the China EXIM Bank on the funding of rail projects in the country.
She said, “All the local borrowing has been undertaken in the local market and we have been utilising that money. On foreign borrowing, we had anticipated doing that towards the second and third quarters of the year. On the China EXIM Bank funding, we are waiting for the finalisation of the contract agreement on the rails because those are tied projects.
“The budget support (fund), which we are applying to the African Development Bank for, we have completed negotiations this month and we are expecting to complete that transaction this coming month. On the Eurobond, we have finished the procurement process for the advisers. We are waiting for the BPP’s ‘No Objection’ and we are hopefully getting that within a week or so, and going out to the market and close that before the end of the year.
“The international markets are quite favourable at the moment for borrowing. The rates are low; many jurisdictions actually have negative interest rates. So, there has been quite a lot of anticipation of the Nigerian Eurobond offer.
“We continue to emphasise that these borrowings are for capital projects and we are expecting that those projects will help us increase our revenues to enable us to pay back. We are being very prudent with our debt strategy.”
In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, expressed satisfaction with the implementation of the 2016 budget so far, while urging the ministers not to relent in their efforts