Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed

The Federal Government on Wednesday disclosed that it has so far released the sum of  N650 billion for capital projects in the 2019 budget.

This is even as it said it has set December target to release additional N250 billion to bring the total released to N900 billion.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, made the disclosure while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, alongside her colleague in Information and Culture Ministry, Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemi Saraki. She explained that the figure had already surpassed the N600 billion President Muhammadu Buhari directed to be released as of October.

Ahmed also recalled that the government had issued a number of Sukuk bonds targeted at generating money to fund road projects.

She however, noted that not all roads were federal-government roads, adding that the majority of bad roads belonged to the various state governments.

While responding to the excuse given by the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, that poor funding was the reason road projects were not executed at a faster pace, Ahmed explained that much as the government faced revenue challenges, works, housing, power and transportation had so far received the highest releases.

“Works is always on the priority list; housing is always funded, same is transportation and power, though we have revenue challenges,”she said.

The minister while responding to the fund releases for roads said: “It gives me an opportunity to state that the Minister of Works and Housing has a proposed budget of N247 billion for the year 2020 and the greatest component of this budget is the fixing of Nigerian roads. It is true that we are not able to fund the budget 100% but whenever we release funds for capital projects; the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Works and Housing is always the priority and also the Ministry of Transport.

“Our fiscal space is tight, resources are limited because revenues are under performing but at time we have resources, funds to release, the highest proportion goes to Power, Transport, World and Housing. And also we have introduced some measures that have seen private sector participants getting involved in road construction. One of these measures is the Road Infrastructure Task Credit Scheme that Mr President approved by Executive Order early this year so far we have 17 companies that are carrying out 19 roads across the six geo-political zones.

“I also want to remind you that for the past two years, we have issued Sukuku bonds. In 2017, it was for the construction of 25 roads. In 2018, 23 roads and there is also another one that is being processed.

“We have a lot of roads in the country but not every road you see is a responsibility of the Federal Government. The major arterial roads are the ones that are the responsibility of the federal government.

“Majority of the roads in the country are within the purview and responsibility of States as well as local governments.

“Have we done enough? No, not yet, that is why we are trying to do more including raising special funds to make sure that roads and such other infrastructure are being addressed.

“In October, when the President was submitting the budget to the National Assembly, he had indicated that he had given a directive that we should release N600 billion for capital expenditure, we have already more than that, the target for us is to be able to release up to N900 billion by December but right now we are at about N650 billion capita release so far.”

Meanwhile, the finance minister  disclosed that Nigeria’s shares at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development had risen to the value of $50.6million.

Ahmed said the country accepted the offer since March this year and briefed council on Wednesday.

With the development, she said Nigeria’s rating before global finance institutions had improved.

Saraki said that council approved N1.7 billion for the construction of jetty in Bonny Island.

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