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2020 Budget: Row over N33b SDGs’ vote

  • Senate, House Committees urge Minister to withhold  allocations

A fresh controversy has broken out on how N33 billion was included in the allocation of  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2020 Budget.

The Office of the Senior Special Assistant on SDGs had proposed a N40billion budget for the year.

In  the budget submitted to the National Assembly, additional N33billion was added making the votes for the SDGs to be N77billion.

During the budget defence, the Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, said “this was how it came from the Presidency.”

Worried by lack of details by the SDGs office, both the appropriate Senate and House committees  have written to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed to stop the release of  allocations to SDGs.

The committees, which also suspected duplication of projects by SDGs, said the ban would not be lifted until the Office of the SDGs is ready to provide the breakdown of how it will spend its N40billion budget.

According to our correspondent, there has been disquiet among some Senators and members of the House of Representatives on the strange N33billion.

Although the figure was among the budget passed into law, there were fears that the floating funds might be allocated to personal projects in which some lawmakers have interest.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are not comfortable with the 2020 budget for SDGs. In fairness, about N40billion was proposed by the SDGs but we later found out that another N33billion was included without any explanation.

‘’When confronted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President simply said: ‘This was how it came from the Presidency.’We were shocked that she did not know anything about the N33billion.

‘’It was this strange inclusion that made us to demand  the details of the budget of the SDGs. We have received allegations of duplication of projects since 2018.

“But it has been a dig-dong game between the Office of the SDGs and the Senate and House committees.

“We want the Executive to pay more attention to this N33billion. We want to know how it came about.”

Meanwhile, the Senate and House Ccmmittees on SDGs have asked Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed to withhold the allocations of the Office of the SDGs until the 2020 budget details are provided.’’

A source added: “What the SDGs office did was to only provide the budget figure of N40billion.  When the Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire came for budget defence, there was no single document on the list of projects to be executed.

“Faced with the timeline for the passage of the Appropriation Bill, we reached an agreement with her to pass the budget and get the breakdown later. Surprisingly, she has been evading the two committees.

There are text messages she sent which we can show as evidence.

“Unable to accept her excuses, we decided to write the Minister of Finance to stop the release of budgetary allocations to SDGs to force her to comply with our demand for the details of her budget.’’

When contacted on the phone, the Chairman, House Committee on SDGs,  Oluwarotimi Agunsoye, admitted that letters were written by his committee and that of the Senate to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed.

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