The inability of government officials to write convincing memos that could be approved for release of funds by Gov. Abdullahi Sule is affecting nutrition intervention programmes in Nasarawa State.
Ismaila Abdullahi, Nutrition Desk Officer, Nasarawa State Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, made the declaration on Friday in Lafia at a 2-day meeting of Health and Nutrition Civil Society Organisations Coalitions and Media Coalitions.
“Some of the desk officers and other officials of the affected ministries are having challenges on the skills of writing memos, but we have taken steps to educate them on the proper way of drafting the document to ensure approval,’’ he said.
He said the failure of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to access the funds equally affected the state’s budget performance and the efforts of the state government to tackle malnutrition in the state.
He noted that while government earmarked N3 million for ‘Nutrition Information System’ in its 2019 budget and re-earmarked the same fund for the same intervention in the 2020 budget, the Ministry of Health, which is the beneficiary of that intervention, could not access the funds as it had no official to write a convincing memo.
Abdullahi added that another MDA, which failed to access funds on nutrition intervention in the 2019 and 2020 budgets was the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, which had N1 million earmarked in both budgets for ‘Awareness creation on Nutrition’ but failed to access the fund.
He said that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology failed to access its N1 million fund for ‘School Nutrition Programme’ in the 2019 budget and the N7 million fund for the same intervention in the 2020 budget.
“The challenges of some of these MDAs in not being able to access their funds affected budget performance because it is one thing to allocate fund for a particular activity in a budget, but it is another thing to get the release of the fund.
“So I am appealing to some of these MDAs to work hard; develop work plans; look for a convincing memo that will scale through to getting the approval of the governor,’’ he said.
According to him, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development also failed to access N5 million earmarked in the 2020 budget for its ‘Nutrition Programme for Women and Children’ while Nasarawa Agriculture Development Programme, which also had N2 million earmarked for ‘Nutrition Activities’ in the 2019 and 2020 budgets also recorded zero performance.
Abdullahi added that the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, which had N3 million earmarked in the 2019 budget for nutrition activities managed to access N2.3 million, but could not access anything from the N500, 000 earmarked for the same activity in the 2020 budget.
He expressed disappointment over the budget performances of the affected MDAs which, according to him, had negative impacts on the efforts of the state government in tackling malnutrition in the state.
“The non-performance of these MDAs is affecting the advocacy on nutrition because efforts are being made by different stakeholders towards seeing the possibility of helping some of these children that are passing through this malnutrition problem.
“If the MDAs do not work hard to make sure that these funds are released to implement the projects, they are increasing the rate of malnutrition which will end up scaling up the level of the scourge in the entire state,’’ he said.
In her remarks, Mrs Mercy Asso, Nasarawa State Coordinator of Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), organiser of the meeting, said its essence was to harmonise efforts of the CSOs and media coalitions to bring to end malnutrition in Nasarawa state.
“We believe in coordination and working together. That is why we are bringing the CSOs and the Media together to form a formidable team on nutrition in the state because our vision in CS-SUNN is to have a country where all citizens have adequate and nutritional food to eat,’’ she said.
The meeting aims to identify and harmonise areas of priorities in nutrition interventions and to develop action plans for prompt implementation in focal states.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was attended by representatives of the CSOs, those of the ministries and some newsmen.