The House of Representatives on Wednesday called the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a liar.
It said the minister lied to Nigerians on the implementation of the 2012 budget by claiming that government had achieved 56 per cent performance.
“It is very clear already that she (Okonjo-Iweala) lied; she has lied to Nigerians”, spokesman for the lower chamber of federal legislature, Zakari Mohammed, said on Wednesday in Abuja.
Contrary to earlier submissions by the finance minister that the budget had recorded 56 per cent implementation, documents submitted to the Senate by the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday indicated that performance of the budget as of July was a mere 12.6 per cent………
The percentage was indeed lower than the 34 per cent performance the House had scored the budget which had angered the Reps and on the basis of which they had given President Goodluck Jonathan up to September to achieve 100 per cent or face impeachment proceedings.
The documents before the Senate now show that though N324.5bn (34 per cent) was cash-backed last month, only N184.84bn (12.6 per cent) was really available to Ministries Departments and Agencies of government for capital projects as at July 20.
The total capital provision in the budget is N1.5tn.
“The minister should just go and make the appropriate adjustments. It is very clear already that she lied; she has lied to Nigerians,” Mohammed said in a reaction to the new revelation on Wednesday.
However, the Federal Government has said that the controversy over the 2102 budget is a distraction to its implementation.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, while briefing journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, on Wednesday said the lingering controversy between the Executive and the Legislature was distracting the government from effectively implementing the budget.
Maku said, “This controversy is distracting the implementation of the budget.
“The Coordinating Minister of the Economy (Okonjo-Iweala) will appear before the Senate. She is able, she is competent and she has the figure that won’t be contrasted.
“All of us are working. We are implementing the budget because that is what we were appointed to do.”
The minister assured Nigerians that they would soon see an upbeat in budget implementation as soon as the various ongoing procurement processes were completed.
He said since the Appropriation Act was passed in April, it would be unfair to conclude three months after that the budget was not being implemented.
But Mohammed disagreed with Maku, arguing that what the National Assembly had done was to engage the Executive by saying that “they should do the right thing.”
“It is not a distraction at all. Rather, it is part of the way forward for this country,” he added.
The House spokesman said, “Let us be honest by telling Nigerians the truth; if there was a failure, let us admit it and we move on. Nigerians are intelligent people; some of them are more intelligent than those of us in government.
“It is just that we are privileged to be called to serve them.”
Mohammed said it was encouraging that the Senate Committee on Appropriation had come to terms with what the House had been saying about the “poor” implementation of the budget.
The Senate on Tuesday had expressed anger at the poor implementation of the budget and the absence of Okonjo-Iweala at an interaction session with its appropriation committee where the minister was expected to brief Senators on the performance of the budget.
The Deputy Senate President had insisted that the finance minister must appear at the senate-executive session on Thursday (today).
Meanwhile, the National Treasurer of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Kenneth Kobani, on Wednesday called for the resignation of Okonjo-Iweala over the government retraction of the 56 per cent budget implementation rate she had earlier claimed.
Kobani, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, said, “On the retraction of its earlier claim on budget implementation, the Federal Government is making governance look like an exercise of power and not the rendering of service to the people.
“So, if the Federal Government is retracting the minister’s claim as reported by The PUNCH today (Wednesday) , it shows the credibility of the Minister of Finance has been called to question. The decent thing to do is for her to go.”