Abuja – The House of Representatives Committee on Industry on Tuesday frowned at the decision of the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), to spend a whooping sum of N33million on advertisement in 2017.
This was even as it demanded details of over N9 billion yearly investment deposits domiciled in some accounts, asking that it be disbursed to investors.
Engaging lawmakers during a budget defence session with the Committee on Tuesday, the Executive Secretary of the Council, Latif Busari, said a total of N9.4 billion had been earmarked, part of which is to come from the 2018 budget to be deposited in two main development banks namely Bank of Industry, (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture, (BOA) for future investments.
He said the investment funds already with some accounts would be lodged in the BOI for the fiscal year to the tune of N5.9 billion while N3.5 billion would also be deposited in the BOA.
This, according to him, was to enable the funds to be used in line with its purpose to avoid wastage.
However, the Committee queried why the funds were not loaned to investors as supposed.
Members of the Committee further suggested that the funds, instead of lying fallow in the accounts, should be loaned to local investors and farmers.
On his part, the Chairman of the Committee, Honourable Usaini Moriki (APC, Zamfara), said the aim of the funds would be defeated if they were not given out to investors.
“The aim of lodging these monies is defeated since they can’t be used for the purpose they were meant for. So, I urge you to look into the issues and identify the problems.
“These banks are there to fund farmers. Why can’t the funds be given to farmers? You can’t be telling us that giving out these funds are capital intensive,” Moriki said.
He then asked the Secretary to provide the Committee with the details of the funds, investors and what the banks had done within the period the funds had been in their custody.
Moriki also urged the Council to, on a monthly basis, record the sugar levies collected by Customs and amounts released by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, to it.
“Provide this Committee a statement of accounts for BOI and BOA investment and provide details of investors who have accessed the loans.
“We need to know if monies meant for sugar development are being sidelined by Customs or CBN,” he stressed.
Responding to the issues, Busari said that the funds were actually meant for big investors who were expected to meet the criteria stipulated by the Council.
He added that most investors who had applied for the funds so far did not meet the criteria and so couldn’t access the funds.
He said: “The banks charge 5 to 7 percent interest which is very low compared to what is obtainable with others. The delay is because they take their time to ensure that the loan application is properly processed. They conduct technical feasibility and financial viability.”
Also giving insight into why the Council expended the whooping sum of N33 million on adverts in 2017, the Executive Secretary said it was to attract foreign investors.
He said: “We are still in the stage of attracting investors. We are constantly on the lookout for investors. This is our key strategy of attracting investors to come into the sugar industry.”
Similarly, the Committee also engaged the Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON, in its 2018 budget defence.
Speaking at the exercise, the Director-General of SON, Mr. Osita Aboloma, said that the total budget of the organization for 2018 fiscal year was N11.95 billion.
According to him, N4.049 billion was recurrent expenditure while N5.12 billion was for capital expenditure and procurement of high technology.
The DG added that N9.77 billion from the budget would be funded from service charge by the Organization.
He, however, stated that N2.76 billion was expected from Federal Government to be expended on salary and overhead.
He said: “we are procuring massive capital and infrastructure development and accelerated technology, develop more testing capacities and make service available to all end users.”