The National Assembly on Wednesday in Abuja decried the 2020 budgetary allocation proposal for the Ministry of Information and Culture, describing it as “paltry, pitiable” and insufficient to carry out the ministry’s statutory mandate.
The joint committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives overseeing the Information sector of the ministry, stated this at the 2020 budget defence by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The session was jointly presided over by Sen. Danladi Sankara, Chairman Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation and Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, Chairman House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Value.
“For those who understand how the business of the media works, when you look at the kind of mandate and responsibilities of the federal ministry of information and the the paltry figure of the budget, it becomes so pitiable for one to think that anything can be achieved,” a member of the committee, Hon. Aniekan Umanah said.
Umanah, who is representing Abak/Etim/ Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency in Akwa Ibom state, noted that the budget of the ministry was meagre compared to information ministry of some states.
‘From a stand point of knowledge, when I was a Commissioner for Information in my state, the total budget for the federal ministry is not up to one third of the budget for the ministry of the state in one year.
‘You cannot do this. I pity the honourable minister because of the enormous work at his disposal,” Umanah, a former Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom stressed:
The legislator said the rate of national TV advertisement slot for a minute is over a million Naira, especially at prime time and the ministry is expected to use the platform and others to propagate government activities, policies and programmes.
Umanah also underscored the need for the ministry to spend more on research and development.
Speaking in the same vein, another member of the committee, Sen. Ezenwa Onyewuchi, representing Imo East, commended the minister for what he has done in promoting the image of the country locally and internationally with little resources.
“Let me commend you for what you have been able to do with your releases for 2019.
“When I look at your releases, I went further to see whether you were making so much from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and I found out that your IGR is also small.
“You have done well in a space where there is competing demands for scarce resources,” he said.
For his part, Hon. Ahmadu Jaha from Borno state called for a revival of information officers in the nation’s foreign embassies and group life insurance for civil servants.
Earlier, the minister said the media “is a very expensive enterprise” but there was no enough funding to carry out the activities of the ministry.
“We suffered inadequate funding because we run advocacy, campaigns not just for the executive arm of government but also for the legislative arm of government.
“However, we also understand the constraint of government that budgetary allocation is based on availability of fund.
“We will continue to do our best in discharging our constitutonal responsibilities,” he said.
Mohammed disclosed that the ministry had held 16 town hall meetings accross the country to acquianit the people on the activities of government and get their feedback.
“We believe the town hall meeting is very important because it provides platform for both the government and the governed to exchange views and give opportunity to feel the pulse of the people.
“We have also launched campaigns such as national campaign against insecurity, national campaign against fake news, campaign in support of the military as well as advocacy outside the shore of the country.
“We will continue to run more advocacy and campaigns to facilitate access by the citizens and the global community to credible and timely information about our nation,” he said.
The 2020 budgetary proposal for the Ministry is N1.1 billion for capital projects, N900.5million for Overhead and N3.3 billion for personnel cost.
On 2019 budget performance of the ministry, from N1.5 billion capital budget approval, N758.3 million was released while N385.2 million was released from N880.5 million approved for overhead cost.
So far, N2.9 billion had been released from personnel cost of the ministry in 2019. (NAN)