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Beta Edu laments N532.5bn ministry allocation, says it’s ‘too small to fight poverty’



Betta Edu

Beta Edu, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, has stated that the sum allotted to her ministry in the 2024 budget is insufficient to combat poverty in the country.

The Minister revealed this on Tuesday, when she appeared before the Joint National Assembly Committee on Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, chaired by Senator Idiat Adebule, to defend her 2024 budget.

She stated that her ministry was given an overhead maximum of N532.5 billion, a 28% increase over the 2023 budget, to buffer the effects of inflation.

It is important to highlight that the 28% increase in the overhead ceiling is not proportional to the economy’s current inflationary rate of 27.33%, she said.

Edu said, “Conversely, the capital budget ceiling was reduced from N3.7bn in 2022 to N1.328316bn in 2023, and it represents a 71 percent reduction.

“So, in 2022 and 2023, there was a 71 percent reduction.

“However, the pittance capital ceiling of N1.535b, which is an increase from the current year’s budget, does not in any way match with the mandate of the ministry’s headquarters to shrink poverty in Nigeria.”

The minister added, “Simply put, there was an over 71 percent reduction between 2022 and 2023, so the minimal increase between 2023 and 2024 does not in any way match with the mandate that we have been given and what is expected of us.

“At this point, I will plead humbly and sincerely with the chairman, co-chair, and members of this great committee as we look into Nigeria as a nation.

“The burden lies on us to tackle the issue of poverty with sincerity. One thing you can take from me and my team working under the guardianship of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that he truly wants Nigerians to be out of poverty.

“Except the budget is appropriate for it, we would be completely unable to meet that mandate.“

She further explained, “It will be words that are not accompanied by actions. I am happy that you represent constituencies and senatorial zones. A lot is expected of you from the government in your constituencies to meet their real sincere demands.

“That is the reason why this committee must go beyond the board to ensure that the present budget that was given to the Ministry and agencies is carefully looked into, reconsidered, and something more reasonable and in keeping with the realities on the ground is done.

“The ministry has several special projects, which I will not like to mention, and we intend to use these special projects as agencies under us to meet the target.”

Edu lamented that something very serious was omitted from the budget.

She told the Senate, “If you followed the news closely, the President, who is the chairman of the Federal Executive Council, recently approved the creation of the Humanitarian and Poverty Eradication Trust Fund.

“This Trust Fund is expected to have a contribution from the Federal Government of 30% counterpart funding, which is supposed to come from donor agencies as well as development partners.

“We also have 30% coming from the private sector and then 10% from other very innovative funds for resource mobilization, with which we have already started engagement.

“Similarly, 10% is expected from other very innovative funds of resource mobilization for which we have already started engagements in the over 111 days in office.”

She added, “We have been engaging massively for these funds to come into Nigeria to support the implementation of programs that we will be implementing with you at the front burner by reaching out to your constituents.

“However, Nigeria needs to put its part of the bargain on the table. This would be not just an attraction to those who are supposed to be bringing in the other percent, but it would also serve as a light to reach the poor and indeed eradicate poverty from our country.

“We plead with this great committee that as you make your submission to the appropriation committee and, of course, furthermore, to the final level where the gavel will go down on the 2024 appropriation, we seek that you help us ensure the inclusion of these budget lines as well as appropriation for this budget line.

“I would want to plead that we would have to as an executive.”

Idiat Adebule, Chairman of the Committee, inquired whether the Minister presented the Trust Fund budget at the budget planning stage.

Beta Edu stated that it was provided to the Ministry of Budget but that it was not represented in the response her ministry received.

Edu said, “This was clearly stated as an omission, and that is why we are asked to bring it in as a memo to the committee to see how they can consider it.

Beta responded in the positive when the committee members questioned if she had the memo.

When asked if she had discussed it with the minister for the budget, she replied yes.

Edu stated that she was with the budget minister and that she had engaged both him and the budget office.

She said, “Of course, we didn’t get to see the copy that was sent to the committee, so from the findings, we got to know that the copy that got to you did not have that reflected.

“Because we are interested in the money that is coming from the donor agency, it is based on this that we are taking that letter, and we will make a presentation to the appropriation committee to see how it goes.”

“We would want to say that you can hold us accountable for the full implementation of whatever is appropriated to our ministry,” Edu stated.