ActionAid Nigeria has raised concerns over the allocation of N1.2 billion for the purchase of office buildings for the National Agricultural Development Fund operation in the proposed 2024 national agricultural budget.
The organization also frowned at the allocation of N70 million for the purchase of office furniture, partitioning, and fittings in the capital budget after the provision of a budget line of N27.5 million for office rent and maintenance of office buildings.
Programme Manager, Food and Agriculture, AAN, Azubike Nwokoye, said this while speaking with journalists on Wednesday in Abuja.
Mr Nwokoye described the allocation of N10 million for residential quarters in the recurrent expenditure as worrisome.
He said, “NADF is going to be an additional fund for the agricultural sector that will mitigate the challenges of low releases, lack of releases, and untimely releases.’’
The fund is meant to put in more funding for the agricultural sector in key areas where there are urgent needs and where gaps exist..’’
Mr. Nwokoye emphasized that should a new building and furniture be provided in year one, maintenance should not be required, as these were fixed assets that required no maintenance in one to three years.
The program manager, who further pointed out the allocation of N450 million for the purchase of operational vehicles, queried the kind of vehicles and the number required for the NADF.
He says, “This is not necessary. A brand new operational staff bus costs about N30 to N50 million and the fund cannot use more than three of such buses aside from very few executive cars.”
Mr Nwokoye commended President Bola Tinubu for the provision of the take-off grant for the NADF.
He stated, “We pushed over the years for the creation of a separate fund to support agricultural development in the country as our budget cycle and limited funding cannot cater to the needs in the sector. The 2024 budget, allocated to the NADF, has a total sum of N102.5 billion out of the total agriculture sector budget of N362 billion.
“This is 28 percent of the overall sector budget for agricultural financing. Of the total N102. 5 billion of NADF, N150 million or 0.1 percent is for personnel salary, N350 million for overhead (0.1 percent), and N102 billion for capital expenditure (99.5 percent),“ he said.
The manager recommended that the N100 billion allocation for capital expenditure for NADF should be targeted towards achieving the commitments of the president’s state of emergency on the food security situation in the country.
He, therefore, suggested that the fund should focus on extension services, access to credit, women and youth in agriculture, and appropriate labor-saving technologies and inputs.
According to him, the fund should also focus on post-harvest loss reduction support in the areas of processing and storage facilities, training, market access, irrigation, climate resilience, and sustainable agriculture.