2018 Budget: Crisis Looms As President Buhari Wants N228b From Inserted N578b For Critical Projects

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President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

Fresh crisis looms between the executive and the legislative arms of government over the insertion of N578 billion into the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget by the lawmakers.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter to the Senate Tuesday, asked the National Assembly to remove a total of N228 billion as re-instatement from the inserted N578 billion in the 2018 budget to fund critical projects.

In the letter read at plenary by Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, Buhari told the senators that not less than N242 billion would be required for the conduct of 2019 general elections.

After President Buhari had signed the budget into law one month ago and criticised the National Assembly for inserting another figure into the budget, the legislators came hard on him and other critics that they would not shift their ground in removing any item from the amount meant for the approved projects.

The President in the letter dated July 11, which was addressed to Saraki, however, explained that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security agencies have submitted their requests in preparation for 2019 general elections.

According to the President, a proposed sum of N164 billion should be provided through virement or supplementary of the 2018 budget.

President Buhari explained that of the proposed N242, 445, 322, 600 billion estimated funding of the 2019 general elections, N164.104 billion should be appropriated for by the National Assembly through virement, while the balance of N78.340billon would be provided for in the 2019 budget provisions.

According to him, a total amount of N228 billion was required to be vired from the N578 billion inserted into the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget by the National Assembly for the N164 billion for election expenses this year and the balance of N64billions for restoration of votes into critical projects earlier removed by the federal lawmakers.

President Buhari explained further that the urgently needed N164 billion for funding of the 2019 general elections would be allocated as follows: INEC, N143,513 billion; N3,856bn for Office of National Security Adviser; N2,903,638,000 for DSS; N1,845,597,000 for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps; N11,457,417,432 billion for the Nigeria Police Force and N530.1 million for the Nigeria Immigration Service.

It would be recalled that President Buhari had while assenting to the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget last month, lamented that the National Assembly inserted a total of 1,403 new projects into the budget, amounting to N578 billion.

He also vowed to send an amendment/supplementary budget to the federal lawmakers for required remedies.

If the President’s request for N228bn virement is approved, it means that the balance of the inserted sum would be N350 billion.

President Buhari’s letter, entitled, “Request for virement & supplementary 2018 Budget”; read, “As you are aware, the 2019 General Election is scheduled to be conducted early in 2019. To ensure that adequate arrangements are made for free and fair elections, it has become necessary to appropriate funds to enable the relevant agencies to commence preparations. INEC and the security agencies have accordingly recently submitted their requests. These have been subjected to the usual budget evaluation. The aggregate cost of the elections is estimated at N242,445,322,600.00.

“However, in the light of prevailing fiscal constraints. I am proposing that the sum of N164,104,792,065.00 be provided for through virement or supplementation of the 2018 budget. I propose that the balance of N78,340,530.535.00 mostly related to personnel allowances, fuelling and other costs not required until the election proper, be provided in their 2019 budget.

“The proposal for the 2019 General Elections are summarised below: You will also recall that when I signed the 2018 Appropriation Act, I indicated the need to request the reinstatement of certain cuts made to certain critical projects provided in the original Executive Bill. I am therefore submitting for your consideration the reinstatement of the most critical of such cuts totalling N64,749,216,150, which are summarized in page 1.

“The total amount required to be provided for in the 2018 budget for the 2019 General Elections and to restore the identified critical projects to the amount earlier proposed is therefore N228,854,008,215. Implementing a budget of N9.12 trillion for 2018 will be extremely challenging and therefore, I do not consider it expedient to propose a further increase to the size of the 2018 Expenditure Framework to fund these very important and critical expenditure items.

“Accordingly, I invite the distinguished Senate to consider, in the national interest, reallocating some of the funds appropriated for the new projects which were inserted into the 2018 Budget proposal totalling N578,319,951,904 to cover the sum of N228,854,008,215 required as noted above. A schedule setting out a comprehensive list of these inserted projects is attached to this letter for ease of your consideration.

“Further to the above kindly find attached the Supplementary Budget and Virement proposal for your consideration.

“While hoping that this request will receive the expeditious consideration of the distinguished Senate, please accept. Mr. Senate President the assurances of my highest consideration.”