By Williams Anuku, Abuja
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed on Wednesday, reacted to criticism trailing the government over underperformance in capital projects, especially failed federal roads across the country.
She said contrary to views held by Nigerians about the deplorable state of roads, the Ministry of Works and Housing including Transportation and Power takes a larger chunk of budgeted funds whenever the President orders a release from the federation account.
Recall that Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had recently claimed that poor road networks in the country were not a perculiar phenomenon to Nigeria.
He had noted, while fielding questions from State House Correspondents, that budgetary constraints as well as poor weather conditions were some of the factors hiding efforts to put the roads in proper shape.
Fashola had also complained of poor budgetary releases, insisting that a fraction of budgeted funds are released to carter for the needs of these critical sectors.
Zainab who owned up to the inability of the government to fund the budget one hundred percent, said most of the roads attracting bashing to the federal government actually fell under the purview of state and local government administrations.
She made these remarks, after the Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
According to the Minister, government has not done enough in project delivery but efforts were on to improve the tempo.
Her words, “It gives me an opportunity to state that the Minister of Works and Housing has a proposed budget of N247 billion for the year 2020 and the greatest component of this budget is the fixing of Nigerian roads. It is true that we are not able to fund the budget 100% but whenever we release funds for capital projects, the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Works and Housing are always the priority and also the Ministry of Transport.
“Our fiscal space is tight, resources are limited because revenues are under performing but at time we have resources, funds to release, the highest proportion goes to Power, Transport, Works and Housing. Also we have introduced some measures that have seen private sector participants getting involved in road construction. One of these measures is the Road Infrastructure Task Credit Scheme that Mr President approved by Executive Order early this year so far we have 17 companies that are carrying out 19 roads across the six geo-political zones.
“I also want to remind you that for the past two years, we have issued Sukuku bonds. In 2017,it was for the construction of 25 roads. In 2018, 23 roads and there is also another one that is being processed.
“We have a lot of roads in the country but not every road you see is a responsibility of the Federal government. The major arterial roads are the ones that are the responsibility of the federal government.
“Majority of the roads in the country are within the purview and responsibility of States as well as local governments.
“Have we done enough? No, not yet, that is why we are trying to do more including raising special funds to make sure that roads and such other infrastructure are being addressed.
“In October, when the President was submitting the budget to the National Assembly, he had indicated that he had given a directive that we should release N600 billion for capital expenditure, we have already more than that, the target for us is to be able to release up to N900 billion by December but right now we are at about N650 billion capital release so far”.
Meanwhile the Federal Executive Council approved a memo to shore up its shares in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development IBRD.
With this development, Nigeria’s share capital base with the Brent Wood institutions will increase to $50million dollars.
She said, “This afternoon, we presented a memo to the Federal Executive Council. The memo is on additional capital increase for Nigeria at the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Prior to now, Nigeria holds 16, 187 shares at the IBRB. During the last meeting of the World Bank Group, a capital increase was adopted in October 2016 and an additional allocation of 3, 230 shares was allocated to Nigeria, both for general capital increase as well as selected capital increase. The total value of these shares is in the sum of $50, 637, 747.60million.
“This additional subscription to the Brent Woods institution by Nigeria is not just desirable but necessary. It will strengthen the country’s position and enhance our voice in the global financial architecture. It is important that we also reported to council that Nigeria is now classified by the World Bank as a middle-class income country by reason of its GDP of over $387b and a per capital income today or as at the end of 2018 of $1,960 per head.
“This makes Nigeria qualify for a Bretton status in the World Bank group that gives a country the leverage and enables us to access some less restricted resources of the bank both at the IBRB as well as the either windows.
“Subscription to these shares will enhance the future of the status of Nigeria as a middle-income country as well project the image of the country as strong emerging market. We are required to at the end of March 2019 to have accepted this offer. We have done the acceptance, we went to Council today to get an approval to submit a memorandum of law to complete the documentation of the subscription process and council approved our prayers”.