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Why FG voted N2bn for N/ East – Minister

The N2 billion provided in next year’s budget for the Federal Initiative for North East is only an interim measure pending an assessment on the…

The N2 billion provided in next year’s budget for the Federal Initiative for North East is only an interim measure pending an assessment on the extent of intervention required, Minister of State for Finance Yerima Ngama has said.
“The N2 billion is just one item we think we can do before the five years program we intend to roll out,” Ngama told a news conference in Abuja yesterday.
Daily Trust exclusively reported last week that the 2014 budget provided N2 billion as “pilot counterpart funding contribution” for the initiative, which President Jonathan pledged to come up with in order to stimulate the North East’s economy that has been damaged by years of insurgency.
Following the report, government came under attack from critics who said it was apparently not taking the North East problem seriously.
Most of the six North East governors said the funds were “grossly inadequate” given the devastation suffered by the zone.
Senator Ahmed Lawal from Yobe State described the provision as a sign of disdain that the Federal Government had for the region.
But speaking yesterday, Ngama, who hails from Yobe State, said: “Nobody said the Federal Government initiative is a 2014 budget year affairs. In fact, that is just the year it will begin.
“We are not saying everything has been finalised and all that the Federal Government can do in the North East is N2 billion.”
He said government was yet to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the extent of damage in the states affected by insurgency, and therefore cannot determine the level of intervention required at this time.
Ngama said a committee would be set up, to include multi-lateral agencies, to hold consultations “when the situation normalises” and determine the extent to which government needed to intervene in the zone.
“We cannot do all we intend without these immediate palliatives. We hope to discuss with various trade groups and youth groups and if what we have at the end of the day is beyond N2 billion, then we take the feedback to the government,” he said.
“Government can intervene from several sources including the stabilisation fund which is for unforeseen circumstances; so government has so many sources of intervention.”
He added: “I wrote to the Head of Service to send us someone who is vastly experienced in similar assignment to serve as secretary of the committee. However we have a contact group where we meet with all the multi-lateral agencies and development partners because they also have interest in restoring normalcy.”
Ngama said effort to convene a meeting of the affected states and development partners has been hampered by recurrent attacks, but that a meeting has now been scheduled for the second week of January.
Last week, Daily Trust reported that the Federal Government plans to spend N4 billion on hosting the World Economic Forum and N7 billion to hold the National Conference.
Ngama yesterday ciriticised the report, saying it was meant to “sow discord and insinuate that government does not care about the people of the North East.”
In criticising the Federal Government’s initiative, Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako had also opposed any programme that would mean the states contributing funds.
While announcing the plan for a special programme for the North East, President Jonathan said in Gombe on December 3: “There is need for the North East to join forces with the Federal Government in articulating a unique transformation vision and plan to drive the region’s future. The plan I envisage must be based on a partnership model in which all of us must play our respective roles”.
But Ngama yesterday said it was misleading to say that the federal programme is a counter-part funding arrangement.
“Why is it called ‘federal initiative’ if we will look forward to the states to provide counter-part funding? It is a programme that has so many stakeholders. Whatever we give is not everything, development partners can give their own,” he said.
Maku speaks on initiative
Earlier at the weekend, Information Minister Labaran Maku also spoke on the Federal Initiative for North East, saying the N2 billion budgeted “is not the end of the matter.”
A statement by his spokesman Joseph Mutah quoted the minister as speaking in a phone-in programme of Radio Nigeria.
“What is seen in the budget is not the end of the matter. There will be a lot of other support coming in and what will unfold will enable the Federal Government, international agencies, friendly governments abroad and also the private sector to make special contributions for the development of the North East,” he said.
Maku, who is also the Supervisory Minister of Defence, said given the huge investments required to set up an Army Division, government had prioritised the provision of funds to construct military barracks, training of personnel and the provision of the necessary equipment to wipe out insurgent activities.
“The recent attacks on Bama, as we know, came from across the border of Cameroon. We are working hard to reach out to the Cameroonian government and other international agencies to ensure that we continue to put pressure on the insurgency from both sides of the boundary,” he said.

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