By Paschal Emeka, Abuja / posted November 2, 2022
The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has decried the low 2023 budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Information and Culture and its parastatals.
The Minister raised concerns on Wednesday in Abuja during the 2023 budget defence session organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Information.
The Minister said that in 2022 budget, the sum of N1 billion was allocated to the information component of the Ministry.
Mohammed said that in the in the 2023 proposals, only the sum of N345 million was allocated for capital expenditures for information.
The Minister said that given the present circumstances in the country, the Ministry should be given more money and not less.
He said that as the country is going into election and census in 2023 there is the need for increase advocacy to sensitize Nigerians.
He said that there will be need to organise town hall meetings, do documentaries, visit Federal Government project sites among many other activities in the fiscal year.
“I fully understand the economic challenges the country is facing but i do not agree that the Ministry of Information and Culture should have less, actually it should have more.
“This is because it is in times of challenges and hardship that you need your Ministry Information not just to chronicle despite lack of funds but to combat fake news, disinformation, hate speech which today has attained a height that is threatening our very existence as a nation.
“While I admit that our revenue is dwindling, there is not a better time to have more money for the Ministry of Information and Culture,” he said.
He urged the committee to do all within its powers to increase the budgetary allocation for better service delivery in the Ministry.
Also, the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Mr Buki Ponle told the committee that N1.8 billion has been allocated for personnel cost.
He said that N265.44 million was earmarked for overhead cost while only N58 million was allocated for capital expenditures.
Ponle urged the committee to support the amendment bill of the NAN establishment Act, saying that there is need to review the Act to meet current realities.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Salihu Dembo while presenting the authority’s budget told the committee that there is 75 per cent reduction in the capital expenditure.
He said that there is need for the committee to look into funding for the agency to meet its mandate as stated in the Act.
The Director-General of the the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) Olalekan Fadolapo commended the Committee for the passage of the Act which gave more regulatory powers to the agency.
According to him, we have stopped foreign content in local advertisements in Nigeria which cost one $1 million.
He said that Nigeria is blessed with a population of about 200 million people and should not be importing voice from South Africa and exporting jobs.
The Director General, however, said that the agency was only allocated N5 million for capital expenditures and 54 million for overhead.
He said that the allocation is grossly inadequate given that the agency just established 19 state offices with a proposed N1 billion Internally Generated Fund (IGR) for 2023.
“There is need for the Committee to look into our budgetary allocation to enable us function properly,” he said.
The Chairman of the committee, Hon. Odebumi Olusegun explained that the budget in some states is bigger than the Information Ministry.
He said that there is need for better funding saying that the information is power saying that there is need to look at revenue generating performance of the Ministry.
“I call on the Ministry, Departments and Agencies under the purview of this Committee to ensure due process, transparency and
accountability in utilisation of any public fund entrusted in your custody in order to guarantee value for any public fund spent in any direction.
“To this perspective, our oversight on the implementation of the 2023 Appropriation Act will be strategic, thorough and detailed to achieve the purpose it is expected to achieve,” he said.
He said that the committee will meet with the Minister and the chief executive officers to fashion out plans that will improve funding.