• N’Assembly removes N17b, oil benchmark still $38 • ‘Document passed with omissions, shortages’
This year’s N6.06trillion budget as passed by the National Assembly (NASS) will pay strict attention to addressing perennial issues in power, housing and transport infrastructure, which got the lion’s share of the capital votes.
The total budget figure is, however, N17 billion less than the 6,077,680,000000 proposed on December 22, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari .
A review of the sectoral allocations of the budget passed yesterday showed that in terms of capital expenditure, the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing has the highest vote of N422,964,928,495 . It was followed by the Ministry of Transportation which had a vote of N188,674,679,674. The Ministry of Defence got the third highest vote of N130,864,439,942
The Senate also reduced the Recurrent Expenditure from N2,648,600,000,000 as proposed by Buhari to N2,646,389,236,196 just as it reduced the capital expenditure vote from N1,845,540,000,000 to N1,587,598,122,031.
The Upper Chamber however retained the figure of N351,370,000,000 figure proposed by the president for statutory transfer just as it also retained N1,475,320,000,000 for debt service.
In passing the budget, the Senate also adopted all the budget assumptions proposed by the president by retaining $38 per barrel as benchmark as well as N197/$1 exchange rate.
In a speech at the end of the passage of the budget, the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, charged the Executive to take the issue of its implementation very seriously.
“While implementing, we charge the Executive to also consider the areas of supporting locally produced goods in order to help our economy. We have all seen the earlier hiccups in the beginning of the budget and we hope that by the time we are about preparing the 2017 budget, the agencies and the budget office would improve their level of interaction and government itself would bring the budget much earlier to give an ample opportunity to the National Assembly to do a good job. It is very important that we do this.”
Saraki also said that the reduction in the size of the budget was to reduce the level of deficit and make the budget very realistic and implementable.
But the Senate expressed serious reservation regarding the manner the budget was prepared and presented before the National Assembly.It noted that even after it had done much work on the budget, there were still some lapses yet to be resolved.
The Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Danjuma Goje, who presented the budget for passage said: “The 20016 Appropriation Bill contained a number of omissions, particularly in the area of personnel costs. Though the Appropriation Committees has filled some of the gaps, there are many outstanding cases which could raise serious concern in the course of the year.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, drew the attention of the Senate to the grave consequences of leaving the omissions and lapses unresolved.
He said: “I am a bit worried about the observation that there were lots of omissions left unresolved. Mr President, the executive presented what we consider to be a proposal and so the ultimate responsibility for this budget rests on all members of the National Assembly. It may be a mistake on the part of the Executive and I think it ends at the point they presented the budget. If anything happens after that and we passed the budget we cannot blame them any longer. Therefore I will like to know what this outstanding cases are because it appears that they are in relation to personnel cost; it would not be a good commentary on this Senate or the National Assembly that down the line during the year we could discover that some of the people we are representing have not been paid because we have refused, failed or neglected to appropriate for them their due salaries and emoluments.”
The Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said:
“I share the sentiments expressed by the Deputy Senate President and we still have an ample opportunity, to address maybe one or two issues. For instance if there are MDAs or personnel in the country that will not receive their salaries on account of omission here then we would be blamed. If the MDAs and the ministries did a poor job of the budget, the Senate cannot rubber-stamp the poor job because if we do so it means we are failing in our responsibilities to guide the administration properly .”