Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed yesterday openly disowned the N398 million being part of the budget estimates by his ministry meant for the purchase of computers.
Speaking at a budget defence session before the Senate Committe on Information, Mohammed noted that the total sum of N398 million proposed in the budget for the purchase of computers was strange to him.
Reacting to questions on the N230 million and N168 million voted for the purchase of computers for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and the Film and Video Censors Board, the minister said he was not aware.
“No, that is not possible. That was definitely not what was proposed, this cannot be,” the minister protested even as an official of the ministry noted that only N5 million was proposed for the item in the original budget of the NFVCB.
But the chairman of the Committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said, “The difference between N5million and N168m is huge.”
Managing Director of NAN, Ima Niboro also expressed shock at the N230million for the purchase of the same item as captured under “Capital Votes” in the 2016 budget of NAN.
A member of the committee, Senator Ben Murray Bruce had also expressed misgivings about the fact that little or no attention was paid to the core functions of the ministry and parastatals under it at a crucial time when Nigeria was at war in the North East.
“I want to ask passionately that they (Ministry/ parastatals) re-submit their budget, taking care of the North East.
because people are dying. This is not the question of spending more recklessly, I appeal that the budget be resubmitted, taking care of their needs in the North East; it is very important”, Bruce said.
Recalling that during the Civil War, radio was a very effective way of communicating with the public, the Senator added that this should also be employed in the war in the North East.
He said. “It would have made more sense for the information budget of the Army to be given to the Ministry of Information to equip these stations manned by NTA and FRCN used by the military as a source of communication.
“For instance, if there is going to be an air raid in a particular area, we can warn the citizens to stay off that particular area. The media can be used like when Buhari did in 1983 for War against Indiscipline, War Against Corruption, so National Orientation should use the medium that we have.
“NTA is a phenomenal network, it has more assets than any station in the whole of Africa today, NTA must be worth 400 million dollars in the open market today.”
Bruce noted that Nigeria is in a state of war as such it was important that national orientation should be in the fore front, followed by NTA and FRCN to be led by the Minister working with the military to guarantee that innocent lives are not lost.