2023 budget: Reps frown at foreign affairs minister over extra-budgetary expenditure, others
The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday came down hard on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama over alleged extra-budgetary expenditure running into billions of naira.
The committee led by Yusuf Buba Yakub during the budget defence session with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs particularly claimed that the Onyeama has become a law unto himself by refusing to adhere to the dictates of the Appropriation Act.
The lawmakers referred to the refusal by Missions and Embassies to constitute their Tender Board allegedly and render an account of their administrative charges allegedly at the behest of the Minister to buttress their assertions.
Yakub, who was visibly angry over the development thereby queried the Minister thus: “One is, therefore, surprised and, indeed, 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.
“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 abiding by.
“According to Section 10 of the Appropriations Act 2022 (as Amended), 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 in spite of 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 (As Amended), 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 prior waiver from the National Assembly”.
“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.
“Being aware that administrative charges have been approved at the Missions by Mr President, this Committee, in line with Section 80 (3 and 4) CFRN (As Amended) has also observed that in total disregard to what the law says, the Minister has continued to authorise the spending of monies generated through administrative charges at the Missions without being appropriated by the National Assembly.”
The committee resolved not consider the present 2023 appropriation proposal of the Ministry until it directs all Missions to abide by Section 10 of the 2022 Appropriations Act (as Amended).
The lawmakers directed the ministry furnish the National Assembly with the 2023 budget proposals in respect to targeted revenues from administrative charges at the missions and embassies.
The committee also demanded the list of unspent funds under the capital component of the Missions’ allocations for the necessary waivers of the National Assembly.
Onyeama however absolved himself of blame adding that at no time did he issue directive to officials of his ministry, embassies and missions abroad to disregard the directive of the national assembly and the constitution of tenders board in line with the dictates of the appropriation Act.
“We have never flouted the law in anyway. I have never signed any document in respect to the disregard of the parliament,” he noted.
Referring to various charges filed by the Economic and financial crimes commission on issues relating to usage of administrative charges foreign by officials of his ministry, he explained that he had already developed a template aimed at ensuring accountability of unspent funds in the ministry.
The Minister thereby offered to provide evidence to substantiate his position on the issues raised by the lawmakers.