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Late releases of 2023 budget affected Justice Ministry’s performance –Minister

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Lateef Fagbemi SAN

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN on Monday, told the Senate that late releases of the 2023 budgets of the ministry by the Ministry of Finance, had adversely affected its performance.

Fagbemi spoke when he appeared with heads of parastatals of the ministry, to defend the performance of the 2023 budget as well as present the 2024 estimates of the Ministry and its agencies, before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.

He lamented that, even though paltry sums of money were allocated for the capital and recurrent components of the ministry’s 2023 budget, only fractions of the sums appropriated had been released, less than 30 days to the end of the fiscal year.

Fagbemi pointed out that out of over N3 billion allocated for capital projects, only about N600,000 was released while only N2.7million was released out of N4.7 billion allocated for the recurrent expenditure.

His words: “In the outgoing budget cycle for 2023, the ministry was allocated N3,321,283.533.00 as capital budget and N4,688,847,054.00 as recurrent budget. At the moment, and with less than 30 days to the end of the financial year, the ministry has only had releases of N617,456,896.00 for capital expenditure and N2,734,110,775.62 for recurrent expenditure.”

Lamenting that this situation was inimical to the operations of the ministry, Fagbemi said: “The foregoing has greatly constrained the performance of the ministry in its mandate areas, and we are quite determined to achieve a paradigm shift in 2024.”

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He also disclosed that the Ministry had been allocated N5,341,356,849.00 as capital expenditure and N8,860,880,311.10 as recurrent expenditure in the 2024 budget proposal.

Fagbemi also noted that, he had observed upon assumption of office, that the problem of the Justice Ministry had been poor funding, stressing that the Ministry, being a critical sector, required significant Investments for to drive the much-needed legal and judicial reforms, achieve satisfactory compliance with human rights, democratic governance, and the rule of law.

He said: “From my first-hand assessment of the justice sector assumption of office, it Is obvious to me that a major challenge in the sector is underfunding.

“This critical sector requires significant Investments for us to drive the much-needed legal and judicial reforms, achieve satisfactory compliance with human rights, democratic governance, the rule of law, etc in His Excellency’s budget speech, emphasis was placed on defence, security, law enforcement, property and investments, amongst other critical areas,

“These are areas wherein the relevance and role of the Federal Ministry of Justice are being under estimated. I wish to reiterate the fact that in furtherance of the constitutional mandate of the Attorney-General of the Federation as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, the Ministry has been providing legal and non-kinetic support for combating insecurity through counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering measures, prosecution and proscription of persons involved in terrorism, and other high-profile crimes.

“Our administration is keen on promoting investments and creating opportunities for economic development. For this to be achieved, a reliable, consistent and developed legal system is a sine qua non. The ministry has since transitioned from its traditional roles to playing active roles in the economy and security sectors through the strategic deployment of the instrumentality of the law.”

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The minister advocated an upward review of the funding of the ministry, to enable it effectively implement its critical functions to the country and citizenry.

He said: “In order for the nation to derive maximum benefits from the functions and potentials of the Ministry, there is a dire need for an upward review of funding for the Ministry and by extension the funds earmarked or proposed as capital and recurrent (overhead) expenditures for the ministry in the 2024 budget proposal.

“Distinguished chairman and members of the committee, permit me to highlight some of the critical mandate areas of the ministry for which we are pleading and praying this committee to empower the ministry with further legislative and budgetary support.

“It is quite fundamental for the ministry to be empowered to drive the current administration’s roadmap for the justice sector (legal and judicial reforms) which is one of the vital priority areas under the President’s eight priorities/focus areas.”

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