By Esezobor Okaima, Abuja
The Federal Government has allayed fears in some quarters that the current economic recession in the country will affect the prompt payment of workers’ salaries in November and December 2020.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said this on Wednesday while fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja.
The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
THE NATIONS EXPRESS report that the figures published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicate that Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the third quarter of 2020 has entered its second economic recession in five years.
The minister, who dismissed speculations that the economic recession would affect the payment of federal workers’ salaries, said government had already paid November salaries.
“On the issue of federal workers’ salary, there’s no issue with federal workers’ salary.
“We have paid salaries for November and we shall pay salaries for December; so there’s no issue at all with federal workers’ salary.
“If you hear about any issue, it is for agencies whose budget’s funding on the GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System) was exhausted and we are about to make an adjustment to them.
“When we were doing the 2020 Budget, we made estimates of the consequential adjustment that is required as a result of the minimum wage and we had sent the budget before a decision and approval was taken on the consequential adjustment.
“So, it is anticipated that some agencies might run short and we made a block provision in the service-wide vote of the budget.
“When we have such a situation, what we simply do is remove fund from the service-wide vote to the agency so that they pay their budget; so, there’s no problem of payment of salaries at all.
While responding on when Nigeria’s borders will be reopened, the minister disclosed that the president would soon receive a report of a presidential committee on the reopening of the borders.
Nigeria, the largest economy and the most prosperous of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had in Aug. 2019 closed its land borders.
This was on account of the proliferation of illegal importation of drugs, small arms and agricultural produce into Nigeria from neighbouring West African countries.
According to her, the committee set up by the president has done an assessment of the gains of the closure, saying once members of the committee sign the report, it will be submitted to the president.
“Mr President has set up a committee that I chair, alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other ministers, including Interior, Customs, Immigration and the security services, to review and advise him on the issue of border closure.
“The committee has just completed its work and we’ll be submitting our report.
“I’ve signed my copy; I gave everybody to sign between today and tomorrow so that we can submit the report to Mr President.”
On the 2021 Budget, she said that the executive arm of government had no plan retrieve the budget from the National Assembly as being speculated in some quarters.
“We are not planning to retrieve the budget or to reverse the budget beyond the work of appropriation that the National Assembly is currently doing in consultation with us,” Ahmed said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who also fielded questions on the move by the United Kingdom’s Parliament to impose sanctions on some Nigerian officials for their role in the violent suppression of the recent #EndSARS protests, said the federal government had reached out to the British government to present its own side of the story.
“The U.K. government has been briefed. There was U.K. Parliamentarian meeting and U.K. government, which acts for the United Kingdom, has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that happened.
“So, we have been in touch with them and are engaging with them. As in every democracy, members of parliament are also able to air their views.
“What is important is that a balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision,” Onyeama said.
Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity who also spoke on the outcome of the meeting, disclosed that the Council approved N17.7 billion for execution of various soil erosion/flood and pollution control accelerated intervention projects across the country.
“The projects include the gully erosion and control along Ndam/Agbor road, Nnobi and Alor towns in Idemili/South Local Government Area, Phase two, Anambra State at the cost N495,878,764 million.
“N792,311,211 million of the amount will be spent to address the erosion and flood menace in Ekiti State and beside Yem Kem House on Oye-Ifaki road in Ondo State.
“Others are Somolu/Bariga LGA, Akoka/Ilaje community and Akoka-Lagos flood and erosion control project in Lagos State at N1,786,146,630.98 billion and gully erosion control in Egbo-Ideh community, Ugheli South LGA of Delta State at N1,328,306,924.00 billion.
“Gully erosion control and road improvement works in Darazo LGA, Bauchi State at N3,897,577,627.79 billion as well as gully erosion control works in Ladanal community, Nasarawa LGA of Kano State at the cost of N1,337,681,584.69 billion.”
According to Adesina, N1,503,970.714.83 billion of the amount is meant to address the devastating effect of gully erosion in Gboko township in Benue, while N1,687,162,328.95 billion is meant for erosion and flood control works in Wase and Bashar towns, Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State.
He said N555,569,610.76 million would be expended on gully erosion control and road improvement works along Plot 1398, off Kainji Crescent and Katampe Extension in Abuja while N1,887,495,486.63 billion would be spent on soil erosion, river channelisation and slope protection within Maitama District (Phase II), Abuja.
He also said N823,677,900 million was to be expended on supply and installation of 12 site flameless/smell-less incinerator (250kg/hr) for the national blood transfusion centres in some federal medical centres and teaching hospitals in the country.
Adesina said N658,938,450 million would be spent to supply and install six containerised incinerators (250kg/hr) for the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) offices in each of the six geo-political zones.