Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige has said only 20 percent of the ministry’s 2017 budget was released to the ministry before the end of the year.
He said paucity of funds hindered the smooth operation of the ministry.
The minister, who spoke while defending the 2018 budget before the Senate and House Committee on Labour and Employment, however said with the reopening of the financial portal for 2017, the ministry would be able to complete all its line items before the closure of the 2017 budget at the end of March, 2018.
Ngige said the commendable state of the ministry in both structural and service delivery was as a result of the concerted and diligent implementation of budgeted projects and prorammes in 2017 appropriation despite the paucity of budgetary releases.
He said : “We were operating on only 20% budgetary release until January 2018. Our budget performance for 2017 would have surpassed expectations of Nigerians and critical stakeholders, if not for the paucity of funds for the implementation of plans and programmes in critical areas of capacity building, strengthening of labour councils and other capital projects which were not fully funded due to the global economic recession.
“We are very hopeful that we will be able to complete many of the outstanding projects and programmes of all the line items of our 2017 budget before capital budget appropriation closes in March 2018. We are happy that the financial portals have just been re-opened. We, however, pledge to do more before the end of March 2018.”
The leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity commended the minister for effective and efficient utilisation of the ministry’s 2017 budget mostly in the area of youth empowerment through skills acquisition programmes.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, Senator Suleiman Nasif, and his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Ezenwa Onyebuchi, said: “With the commendable and far-reaching implementation of the 2017 budget by your Ministry in critical areas of both the recurrent and capital projects regardless of limited budgetary release in 2017, we believe that the impact of 2018 budget that would be fully appropriated will significantly be felt by Nigerians upon implementation.”
The two committees tasked the minister to deal frontally with the menace of youth unemployment by widening the scope of the various vocational skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development progrmmes already championed by the ministry.