Senate summons Finance minister, Chief of Army Staff over budgetary releases for war

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As anxiety and fears mount following growing insecurity in the country, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Attahiru Ibrahim, have been summoned by the Senate to shed light on budgetary allocations and releases to that arm of the military.

They are to appear before the Senate Committee on Army on Tuesday May 5 alongside the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze.

They are to give detailed accounts of the budget of the Nigerian Army and expenses/ procurements from 2019 till date in fighting insurgency, banditry and other forms of insecurity that have bedeviled the country.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the committee; Senator Ali Ndume, knocked the minister for her alleged disregard for its invitations.

Ndume on Wednesday, at a meeting with officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance frowned at Ahmed’s absence from such a crucial deliberation on the nation’s daunting security challenges without excuse or prior notice.

Expressing his displeasure, Ndume said, “honestly, we are not happy that the Minister of Finance is not here today despite the fact that she was duly invited and she knew the importance of the issue we invited her to discuss with us.

“There is nothing that is more important that she could be attending to than the serious problem of insecurity all over Nigeria at the moment.

We were blaming the military but the soldiers are claiming that they have no equipment, arms and ammunition to work with because there was no money to buy them.

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“We have invited the Minister now to explain why her ministry was not funding the operations of the Army and she is not here. This is not acceptable.”

However, on hand to clarify issues was the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Finance Ministry, Aliyu Shinkafi.

He told the committee that N75bn was appropriated and released in 2019 while an additional N7bn was appropriated from the service wide vote and also fully released.

According to Shinkafi, N75bn was appropriated in the 2020 fiscal year but N74.99bn was released while in the running financial year, N100bn was appropriated out of which N19.4bn has so far been released for the first quarter. “Just yesterday, we released N19.95bn for the second quarter,” he added.

“We believe that we are on course as far as releases for these operations are concerned,” the Permanent Secretary added.

But Committee chairman produced Ndume a letter in which the Chief of Defence Staff purportedly claimed that the military authorities had shortfall in releases from the Finance Ministry.

Ndume said “the letter from the Defence headquarters on the funding of Operations Lafiya Dole is claiming that they have a shortfall of N50bn in terms of releases and requested us to do a follow up on the matter”.

But Shinkafi insisted that all the amount appropriated had been released, which prompted the committee to demand that the ministry officials led by the Minister, Ahmed Zainab to come with details of the releases next Tuesday.

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