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N60bn Earmarked For Student Loan Scheme in Nigeria’s 2024 Budget, Says Minister Bagudu

The student loan scheme was recently suspended to allow for more stakeholder input.

Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, disclosed on Thursday that N100 billion was earmarked in the 2024 budget to fund the proposed consumer credit system, designed to stimulate consumption as well as encourage local manufacturing.

Bagudu also said N60 billion was budgeted for the students’ loan programme, which was recently suspended to allow for more stakeholders’ input.

Speaking during an interaction with journalists in Abuja, the minister said both initiatives, among others, were laudable innovations by President Bola Tinubu to aid Nigerians and the economy at large.

Bagudu further clarified that contrary to ongoing narratives on the alleged padding of the 2024 appropriation, there were no infractions in the making of the budget.

He insisted that the National Assembly had the last word on issues of appropriation given its oversight powers over public institutions.

The minister said the ministry aligned with the statement issued earlier by the presidency, which sought to clarify the allegations of padding.

Bagudu stated that the National Assembly had the power to either add or subtract any item from the budget without breaching any provision of the Appropriation Act.

He said some of the controversial items that were being regarded as padding had to do with constituency allocations, which were lawful, as well as issues around the foreign exchange that was adjusted to reflect current realities.

Bagudu said, “When people talk about padding, I think that the word has been narrowed to a negative form, whereas in reality, there can be no appropriation without either addition or subtraction of a sum, or agreeing to what was presented, or addition of a new project.

“Following the presentation of the budget to the National Assembly, there have been some issues; the presidency issued a statement, which we are fully in agreement with, about the size of the budget and where the mistake is coming from.

“Mr. President presented a budget of 27.503 trillion and the National Assembly in its wisdom increased the budget to 28.77 trillion, an increase of about N1.2 trillion.

“When we presented the budget, we presented at the exchange rate of N750 to the dollar but the National Assembly adjusted it to N800 to the dollar. And that, therefore, created more revenue.”

The minister said, “Equally, the National Assembly appropriated that the government-owned enterprises that contribute revenue should contribute more and that was the source of the additional funding of the budget. The additional money was used to increase the budget of the judiciary, legislature, and executive.

“The president in signing the 2024 appropriation acknowledged that in a democracy, institutions have their power and the National Assembly has the last word when it comes to appropriation and he appreciated their wisdom.

“We chose democracy and it has its own opportunity cost, part of it is that power is split among institutions and that is the best system we have.”

On the constituency allocations, the minister explained, “This is quite often the case of a democracy that is evolving with a lot of demands – all elected persons, particularly, people in the legislature are elected by people in constituencies and they make several demands on them, which is not an unusual phenomenon.

“It is in all democracy. As representatives of the people, they are under pressure to respect the wishes of their people by ensuring that part of the public spending in a year affects the constituencies for which they are elected to represent.

“So, the evolution of constituency projects by the National Assembly members, which did not begin, now took place through our democratic journey from 1999 and is a reflection of our challenges that the elected/unelected are under pressure for public funds to be utilised in advancing the interest those communities may have.”

Bagudu stated that the 2024 budget presented several innovative initiatives aimed at improving lives and the country in general, adding that Tinubu should be commended for his Renewed Hope agenda.

On the budget support for the consumer credit scheme, Bagudu said, “This is important because, to us, the manufacturing sector is struggling with two challenges: efficiency of production and finding someone who can buy.

“The introduction and support of consumer credit, we believe, will help in the revival of our manufacturing sector to meet up to global standards.  It is a catalytic fund that is expected to grow.”

The minister further stated that the federal government had set aside another N100 billion for the National Agriculture Reform Fund. He stated that the government had taken steps to wean the budget off those things that can be done by the private sector.

He said to achieve this, “There was need to de-risk the landscape, thus the creation of N100 billion Agricultural Development Fund to finance the National Agriculture Development Agency that was created by a loop.

Bagudu said, “For similar reasons, this will help sectors that are otherwise difficult to fund. The fund is supposed to attract more funding from private investors.

“We have N65 billion Development Fund; again to de-risk so that the mortgage industry can grow big and can generate more investment because our needs for houses are beyond what the public sector and government provisions can ever provide.

He said, “Even though we have mortgages, we need to de-risk further so that there will be lower interest rates and can serve all sectors.”

The minister added, “We have the CNG/clean energy transition fund to support measures that have been taken when the fuel subsidy was withdrawn; N100 billion was made available to support public vehicles – CNG buses and kits.

“So, we now provided more money in the budget to support that transition because we believe it’s necessary for cheaper, lower costs of transportation.

“Equally, we have provided N50 billion, in addition to what has been provided in the supplementary budget for the student loans so that our students who are otherwise in need of support but cannot access it, can have one or two student loans.

“Yes, there was N10 billion provision in the supplementary budget. So, that now means for the student loan, we have 60 billion.”

James Emejo

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