Why we’ve not released N350b – FG ….says no plan to retrench workers


By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.
The Federal Government explained Wednesday why it has not been able to release the N350 billion to meet contractual obligations in order to boost the economy as it had promised since April.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma said government had been hamstrung by the processes and requirements that should be met before releases could be effected.
He also stated that the current administration had no plan to retrench workers despite the precarious economic condition in the country.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting of the council presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Udoma stated that the money was available, but that the process had to be fast tracked so that release could be made.
According to the minister who jointly addressed the press with his Information counterpart, Lai Mohammed, while it was expected that money would be released for existing project soon, new projects may have to waiter much longer due to the statutory requirements of procurement.
Udoma had announced during the breakdown of the 2016 budget on May 13th that the N350 billion would be released the next day so as to halt the ugly spate of down sizing of the workforce by especially the construction companies in the country.
He said: “As far as the N350 billion which was indicated, the money is available but there is a process and this is part of the reasons we briefed council and there is need to fast track those processes so that very soon most of those monies will be released.
“We expect in the ministry of works, they should have quite substantial release in the next week or so.
“It’s easier for us for existing projects but new projects are a bit more difficult because of the public procurement. The public procurement you have to advertise and you have to wait for six weeks  and so on.
“So new project will take a bit longer. But existing projects that have already gone through the public procurement process‎ will be faster and I believe that you will soon start seeing the impact of those releases.”
On money so far released for any purpose since the budget was signed on May 6th, the budget and planning minister promised that in the course of the week, figures to that effect would be released.
“I think what we will probably do is ‎because that wasn’t part of what council discussed, so what we will do we will be giving numbers from time to time. So I’m sure within the week we should be able to give you numbers,” he assured.
Udoma disclosed that FEC deliberated on the economy and the steps that needed to be takento quickly reflate it.
“And Council approved that the various MDAs should fast track the processes for the capital budgets so that the economy can be quickly reflated,” he said.
On the curret economic hardship in the country, the minister pointed out that government was not unaware of what was happening, saying that it was due to the status on the economy the present administration met on ground.
“We have a plan and the plane is to reflate the economy. What has happen to Nigeria is not a surprise to the government, it is something that we came in to meet, it has been caused by the fall of crude oil prices from over $100 to less than $30 and so we came in to meet that problem.
“The decision that we took to address that problem is to reflate the economy and the budget was aimed to achieve that and that is why you have in the budget a plan to spend a large amount of money on infrastructure but as you know the budget was only recently passed. It takes time for the spending to be release and to hit the economy and to begin to see the impact.
“So we have a plan, we know the situation we are in right now and we have a plan to get out of the situation. It is just that at this particular point in time we expected this trajectory because the releases will only start kicking in so that by the third quarter we will start seeing the impact of what we are doing to reflate the economy,” he stated.
‎Fielding questions, Udoma also pointed out that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had no plan to cut the nation’s workforce by way of retrenchment.
He explained that the plea of government to the private sector to halt ongoing mass sack of workers was based on conviction that the economy would soon pick up and that the companies and banks would still need the services of the workers that they have asked to go home.
“The policy of this government, we said so at the beginning that we are not going to retrench. There is a natural wastage which happens in government, there are people who retire, people who may be disciplined but there is no policy in this government to retrench. So I want to disabuse your mind that there is no such policy.
“With regards to the plea to the private sector (on sack of staff), it is because we know that by the time the economy picks up, they will need those people again‎. We know the economy is going to pick up, we are confident about that, that is because of our plan, the plan was conceived because we knew that this was the trajectory we will move into.” He assured.


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