it was supposed to be a lively ceremony, but yesterday’s budget signing at the Presidential Villa was sober.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed Budget 2018 into law — reluctantly.
The ceremony ought to have held in January as envisaged when the President submitted the proposals to the National Assembly on November 7, last year.
He told the lawmakers of his desire to return the country to the January – December budget cycle and solicited for their cooperation, but the budget was passed just last month. The bill was transmitted to the President on May 25. It was passed on May 16.
The lawmakers raised the total expenditure profile by N578 billion— from N8.6 trillion to N9.1 trillion.
The President said he signed the document because he had no choice going by the comprehensive alterations made by the lawmakers.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara were absent.
Deputy Senate Leader Ibn Na’Alla and House Chief Whip Ado Doguwa stood in for them.
The President noted that “the National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion”.
He added: “Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.
“Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualised, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute.
”Furthermore, many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.
“As it is, some of these projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened.”
He added that the lawmakers also hiked their own budget to N139b from N125billion without consultation with the executive.
Faulting the many insertions by the lawmakers, Buhari said: “The logic behind the Constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects.”
The President said he decided “to sign the 2018 Budget in order not to further slow down the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget”.
He said he would “seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which I hope the National Assembly will be able to expeditiously consider”.
Buhari praised the implementation of the 2017 budget in which N1.5 trillion was released for the implementation of capital projects.
The President said in spite of the delay in the budget’s passage, he would continue to work with the National Assembly “towards improving the budgeting process and restoring our country to the January-December fiscal cycle.”
”I note, with pleasure, that the National Assembly is working on the enactment of an Organic Budget Law, so as to improve the efficiency of the nation’s budgetary process,” Buhari said.
HOW THE BUDGET WAS ALTERED
- Lawmakers raise extimates presented by President Buhari by N578b
- Lawmakers cut N347b allocated to 4,700 projects and introduced 6,403 projects
- Counterpart funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project cut by N11.5b
- Projects in the FCT major arterial roads and mass transit rail cut by N7.5b
- Provision for rehabilitation for UN building cut from N4b to N100m
- Estimate for health cut by N7.45 b •Vote for security at 104 Unity Schools cut by N3b
- Funds for National Housing Programme cut by N8.7b
- N5b cut from provisions for PRF and Public Service Wage Adjustment
- Funds for EEG and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks cut by N14.5b
- Construction of Enugu Airport terminal building cut from N2b to N500m
- Take-off Grant for Maritime Varsity cut from N5b to N3.4b
Insertions by lawmakers
- 70 new roads inserted into the budget without consultation with the Executive
- Statutory Transfers increased by an aggregate of N73.96b (for recurrent expenditure)
- The National Assembly’s budget was raised from N125b to N139.5b