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Reps panel rejects foreign affairs ministry’s 2023 budget over ‘violation of appropriation law’

  A House of Representatives committee says it will not approve the 2023 budget of the ministry of foreign affairs until it complies with th...

 


A House of Representatives committee says it will not approve the 2023 budget of the ministry of foreign affairs until it complies with the provisions of the 2022 Appropriation Act.

 

Yusuf Yakub, chairman of the committee on foreign affairs, said this on Wednesday when Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, and his team, appeared before the committee to defend the ministry’s 2023 budget proposal.

 

The committee accused Onyeama of directing embassies to ignore sections 7 and 10 of the 2022 Appropriation Act, which males provisions on how funds are disbursed by the nation’s foreign missions.

 

“It beats every logic that the ministry of foreign affairs has deliberately refused to abide by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by other statutes of the land, including the standing orders of the house,” he said.

 

 “The question this committee is asking the minister of foreign affairs is: Is he bigger than Nigeria and its laws? Or how else will one explain the constant flagrant abuse of the laws of the land even when we have continued to write letters to the ministry reminding it of relevant provisions of our laws that demand compliance.

 

“According to section 10 of the Appropriations Act, 2022, missions and embassies have been empowered to constitute their tender board for the purpose of the procurements they need to make.

 

“We have called the attention of the minister to this act, but he has continued to direct the missions not to obey this law despite receiving about four letters on the issue, including the latest one of 6 September 2022.

 

 “In addition to the above, section 7 of the Appropriations Act 2022, captures, inter alia, that ‘the minister of finance shall ensure that funds appropriated under this act are released to the appropriate agencies and or organs of government as and when due, provided that no funds for any quarter of the fiscal year shall be deferred without a prior waiver from the national assembly.”

 

The lawmaker said the national assembly wrote directly to the embassies to comply with the aforementioned sections of the 2022 Appropriation Act, but the ministry again, sent a counter directive.

 

“In total disregard for the above, the ministry has continued to direct missions to retain and spend monies in their capital accounts without any waivers from the national assembly.

 

“A 23rd September 2022 letter by this committee that was sent to the ministry, as a reminder to earlier ones, still did not stop the ministry from flouting the laws of the land.

 

 “The minister has continued to authorise the spending of monies generated through administrative charges at the missions without being appropriated by the national assembly.

 

“It is important to note that this committee has continued to draw the attention of the ministry to the above noted infractions, but all to no avail.”

 

ONYEAMA DENIES WRONGDOING

 

While responding, Onyeama denied writing to the embassies to disregard the provisions of the appropriation act.

 

He said the ministry cannot violate the provisions of law enacted by the parliament.

 

“Mr. chairman, contrary to your assertion, the ministry is in no way trying to flout the laws of the land by trying to appropriate to itself powers that it does not have,” he said.

 

 “We have here and we can submit to this committee evidence of directives we have given to the missions.”

 

The committee chairman subsequently ruled that the ministry’s 2023 budget proposal will not be considered until the embassies fully comply with the law.

 

 “Messages have been sent to embassies who disregard and disrespect the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so that is why we will not take your budget presentation of 2023 until these infractions are adhered to,” Yakub said.

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