The nation’s economy seems to be in a precarious position following the admittance of the Federal Government that estimated 400,000 barrels of crude oil are being lost daily to illegal bunkering, vandalism of infrastructure and halt in production.
As a result, revenue accruing to the Federation Account is fast dwindling amid fears that the Federal Government may not be able to implement the 2013 budget.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who appeared before the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Appropriation/Finance in Abuja on Tuesday in response to a summons, revealed the revenue shortfall.
Okonjo-Iweala said, “We are losing revenue; 400,000 barrels of crude oil are lost on a daily basis due to illegal bunkering, vandalism and production shut-in.
“I have to clarify that it is not as if the entire 400,000 barrels is stolen, no. What happens is that whenever the pipelines are attacked and oil is taken, there is a total shut down. All the quantity of oil produced for that day will be lost because it means government cannot sell it and it means a drop in revenue.”
The minister explained that this was the reason President Goodluck Jonathan sought to amend the 2013 Appropriation Act as against sending a supplementary budget to the National Assembly.
She argued that the government was contending with revenue shortfalls and could not afford a supplementary budget.
Okonjo-Iweala told the committee, “You cannot talk of supplementary budget when your revenue is going down.
“That is why we are asking for an amendment to restore the money that was removed.”
The Presidency and the National Assembly have had a running battle over the former’s amendments proposals to the 2013 budget.
Jonathan had asked the lawmakers to restore the N80bn slashed from the N4.9tn budget proposals sent to the National Assembly last year.
But, lawmakers rejected Jonathan’s request and instead advised him to forward a supplementary budget to the legislature.
On budget performance, Okonjo-Iweala claimed that 67 per cent of capital project implementation had been achieved.
She arrived at the percentage by saying that N600bn had been released to government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies so far, with N587.7bn cash-backed.
The minister clarified that there was no dispute with the lawmakers over constituency projects as widely speculated.
“So, I want to say that constituency project has not been an issue,” she added.
Okonjo-Iweala said her recent comment was to the effect that government might not be able to pay salaries by September if the budget was not amended.