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FG Refutes Reports On N300B Hospitality Industry Fund

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...Jonathan Still Perusing 2013 Budget, Says Minister

SAN FRANCISCO, January 16, (THEWILL) - The Federal Government has refuted media reports that the Ministry of Culture and National Orientation diverted the sum of N300 billion appropriated to the hospitality industry last year.

Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, made the refutal, Wednesday, while speaking with State House correspondents in Abuja, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which was presided over by the President Goodluck Jonathan.

Maintaining that it is a misnomer to claim that government made such appropriation, Ngama said those who know how government appropriate funds to Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) would know that the story is false.

The Minister said government had no intervention plan for the hospitality area,stressing that the only area where government is intervening is in the entertainment industry, which got $200 million boost through the Nigerian Export Import (NEXIM) Bank.

Ngama's refutal was also corroborated by the Minister of Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, who described the reports as false.

“They are absolutely incorrect,it does not exist and never existed,” Duke stated.

The refutal also came on a day Ngama disclosed that President Jonathan was currently perusing the 2013 budget which was submitted to him by the National Assembly.

Ngama ,however, did not give the time that the president will append his signature to the budget documents. He also did not disclose whether or not the controversial aspects of the documents, such as the oil benchmark and the refusal of the National Assembly to include appropriation for the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to the minister, there may still be areas of disagreements that could stall the signing of the document into law but these are yet to be known as the president has not finished studying it.

“The budget has been submitted to the president by the National Assembly. The president is studying it. We hope that very soon he will finish and it will be signed into law.

"There may be areas of disagreements. These will be known when he (the president) finished studying the document,” the minister explained.

Also on Wednesday, the FEC approved and directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Muhammad Bello Adoke, to transmit a new bill on the prohibition of trafficking of persons to the National Assembly.

Minister of Information, Mallam Labaran Maku, who disclosed this said the bill was necessary with Nigeria being a major destination for export of persons.

He explained that the new bill will look into trafficking in different respects, including forceful trafficking and stipulated penalties ranging from five to seven years for offenders.

He disclosed that there are also other penalties, such as fine and imprisonment for varying degrees of offences.

The FEC meeting, which discussed policy issues , also received performance report of the Ministries of Defence and Education.

Meanwhile, a revised building code for the country is in the offing following the completion and submission of a revised report on the collapse of a building in Gwarinpa area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) last year.

Minister for Housing, Ms. Ama Pepple, who chaired the presidential committee that investigated the collapsed building, said the contractor that constructed the building, Ecobar Industrial Company Limited, has been recommended for banning.

The committee also recommended that all buildings handled by the contractor should be subjected to integrity tests.

The committee also recommended for punishment those hired to demolish the building, which was found to have structural defects,and claimed to be professionals and staff of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) who were implicated by the presidential committee.