From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
State House Permanent Secretary, Emmanuel Ogbile shocked senators yesterday when he said N1, 305, 292, 050 budgeted for refreshment, meals and other miscellaneous expenses for the 2013 fiscal year was ‘grossly insufficient’. Ogbile said this when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs to defend the N14, 715, 566,104 budget for next year.
The permanent secretary told the committee that capital expenditure for the new year would gulp N5.569 billion while N7.522 billion was budgeted for overhead costs and the remaining N1.622 billion for personnel. A breakdown of the miscellaneous sub-head in Aso Rock’s budget shows that N203,752,432 was allocated for refreshment and meals, N107,412,768 would take care of honorarium and sitting allowance while publicity and advertisement would gulp N37,277,825.
Other details are: Medical expenses (N50, 308,546); Postage and courier services (N10,035,583); Welfare packages (N195,066,223); Subscription to professional bodies (N4,589,793) and Sporting activities (N32,910,730). The list is also made up of: Overtime (N250,455,589); Feeding of animals including animal supplements for the veterinary clinic (N30,584,144); Summit/ Extra ordinary sessions including the UN, African Union, ECOWAS, etc (N228,112,862) and NYSC, IT, LOCUM, housemanship and contract staff allowance (N144,788,555).
This amount, Ogbile contended was not enough in response to observation by a member of the committee, Senator Isa Galaudu, who noted that Nigeria’s budget in one year was what South Africa spent in five years. Ogbile said: “I have taken pains to explain that this money is not just to fund the residence of the president and that of the vice president.
The experience I have had is that this fund is grossly insufficient. “It’s not even enough.” He also explained that out of the N1.305 billion, “the Federal Executive Council (FEC) holds every Wednesday and we take care of them through this budget.” Ogbile then reeled out some other expenses that were taken care of in the refreshment and meals vote to include National Economic Council (NEC), Council of States, conferences in the Banquet Hall, Presidential retreats, National Merit Award, Children’s Day, hosting of dignitaries.
At this point, committee chairman, Dahiru Awaisu Kuta countered that the Merit Award had its own budget for such ceremony and Ogbile had to proffer another round of explanations. He said dignitaries who attended the National Merit Award ceremony and followed the President back to Aso Rock would also need to be entertained. Although N1,715, 619, 299 was listed as vote for the Office of the Vice President, no details were given in the document submitted to the committee.