If the 2017 estimated spending by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is approved as proposed, the Federal Government will spend N400million on vehicles for former presidents/ heads of state.
Their outstanding allowances will also be paid in this fiscal year because they are in the estimates, according to SGF Babachir David Lawal.
Lawal spoke yesterday when he defended the planned expenditure before the Senate Committee on Federal Character.
The Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, asked why former presidents’ allowances had not been paid. Lawal said: “Fund for the allowances for former presidents was sufficiently covered in the 2017 budget, though not openly budgeted for in the proposal.”
Although the SGF did not disclose the total amount required for the payment of the arrears, he noted that the money was part of the N9.88 billion proposed by his office.
Lawal said the former presidents were due to have new vehicles, usually procured at the end of four years.
Besides President Muhammadu Buhari, there are seven former presidents and heads of State. They are: Gen. Yakubu Gowon, President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Shehu Shagari, Military President Ibrahim Babangida, Head of Interim National Government Ernest Shonekan, former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and President Goodluck Jonathan.
The SGF, who was scheduled to appear before the committee last week, failed to show up.
He told the senators that his absence was necessitated by the urgency to condole with families of those bereaved, particularly the Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, whose first wife died.
He told the committee that his office proposed N9.882,782,935 billion for the 2017 fiscal year.
Of the amount, N3,408,763,591 is for payment of personnel costs and N3,781,628,226 for overheads, a figure which shows an increase of N2 billion as against the 2016 appropriation.
The amount proposed for overheads is for funding the programmes of other offices headed by the permanent secretaries in the OSGF. They are also programmes of political office holders such as the special advisers, and senior special assistants to the President.
Lawal’s office budgetted N2,692,391,118 for capital projects.
He said that funds appropriated for the office in the 2016 budget were grossly inadequate to meet some of its responsibilities.
The committee agreed with the SGF that 10 per cent release by the Ministry of Finance for the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in 2016 was insufficient, particularly against the backdrop of what was proposed.
The amount, which according to them was insufficient, they said may be an indication that there is a problem between the Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance that must be tackled.
Hunkuyi, who praised the federal government for adequate releases to MDAs in 2016, said the committee would investigate the poor release to the OSGF.
”If it is a problem between finance and budget, we need to get at it and understand what it is. It is unlike this government to do that. We need to know what went wrong, where, who is in charge of that and remedy it,” Hunkuyi said.
Committee Chairman, Senator Tijjani Kaura described the request for more funding by the OSGF as “justified”.
He noted that the meeting was “aimed at understanding better the performance of previous budgets and proposal of this year’s budget”.