NASS Jerks up N8.612 trillion 2018 Appropriations by N508.3bn

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The National Assembly has jerked up the 2018 appropriation Bill  by a whopping sum of N508,334,988,225, following its approval of the sum of N9,120,334,988,225 for the 2018 fiscal year.

Six months after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the draft copy of the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget estimates to a joint session of the National Assembly on November 7 last year, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Monday laid the report of Committees on Appropriations.

The report of the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate was laid by the Chairman, Senator Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central.

The presentation of the report was seconded by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.

In the House of Representatives, the chairman of its Appropriation committee, Hon. Mustapha Dawaki (APC, Kano), also laid the report.

According to the report of the joint Committees on Appropriations, the amount represents more than 10 per cent increase of the original amount of N8.612trillion submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 5, 2017.

Also jerked-up by the lawmakers is the crude oil benchmark which has been increased from its earlier $45 per barrel to $50.5 per barrel.

The budget of the Office of the Auditor- General of the Federation was also increased to enable it carry out its responsibilities to the fullest.

Strong indications, however, emerged that the budget will be passed by the Senate this week, just as moves to do that was largely believed by concerned Nigerians to have arisen as a result of May 31, 2018, set as deadline for the life span of 2017 budget of N7.444 trillion.

Meanwhile,  the House of Representatives has resolved to pass the budget at noon Wednesday and the breakdown shows that the sum of N530,421,368,624 is for statutory transfer; N2,203,835,365,699 for debt service.

According to the breakdown,  the sum of N199 billion is for sinking fund for maturing loans; N3,516,477,902,077 for recurrent (non debt) expenditure, while N2,869,600,351,825 is for development fund for capital expenditure.

It is, however, expected that the upper legislative chamber would keep faith with its earlier resolve to lay and pass the budget as previously expressed by Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

Recall that Saraki, while briefing State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago, promised to lay the report last week and pass it this week.

The House of Representatives had also, a week before the Senate President’s assurance, disclosed that it would lay and report before the end of April and pass it in the first week of May.

However, the new position as announced by Senator Saraki forced the House to abandon its earlier arrangement, with a view to harmonising position with the Senate.

In his presentation, Dawaki said: “That the House do receive the Report of the Committee on Appropriations on a  Bill for an Act to authorize the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, the total sum of N9,120,334,988,225 only, of which the sum of N 530,421,368,624 only   is    for Statutory   Transfers.

“The sum of N2,203,835,365,699 (Two Trillion, Two Hundred and Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Thirty-Five Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety Nine Naira) only is for Debt Service of which the sum of N190,000,000,000 (One Hundred and Ninety Billion Naira) only is for Sinking Fund for maturing loans, the sum of N3,516,477,902,077 ( Three Trillion, Five Hundred and Sixteen Billion, Four Hundred and Seventy-Seven Million, Nine Hundred and Two Thousand, Seventy Seven Naira) only is for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure, while the sum of  N2,869,600,351,825 (Two Trillion, Eight Hundred and Sixty-Nine Billion, Six Hundred Million, Three Hundred and Fifty- One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Twenty-Five Naira) only, while N987 billion is contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure (Exclusive of Capital Expenditure in Statutory Transfers) for the year ending on the 31st December, 2018.”

The six months the 2018 budget estimate has spent in the National Assembly has been the longest since 2000 when a full fledged yearly budget was first presented to it .

Expeditious consideration for the 2018 budget estimates by both chambers of the National Assembly ran into troubled waters in December last year when the federal lawmakers observed that details of implementation of the capital components of the 2017 budget were not made available by the executive .

The delay in quick consideration of the budget, shifted to non-appearance of heads of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, before the relevant committees of both chambers in January.

Specifically, the Senate on February 14 this year, read the riot act to heads of the agencies who had not appeared then.

The ultimatum was sequel to a point of order raised by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, through  a point of order.

Senator Lawan, through the order, drew the attention of  the Senate to the fact  that of 64 government agencies, only the National Communications Commission, NCC, submitted details of its 2018 budget proposal three months after presentation of estimates by the President.

Lawan had said: “I want this Senate to give an ultimatum of one week to all the agencies to submit the details of their budget to our committees to consider for appropriation.”

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, expressed disappointment  that the MDAs disregarded due process by failing to submit details of their budget proposals, saying ”this had been a matter we have been talking about for a very long time and these agencies continue to have total disregard for due process

“I think it is very clear that the mandate we give to them is one week. “Our cooperation should not be misread as weakness or not knowing what to do.

“Definitely, we can mandate the Ministry of Finance to ensure that they do not further order releases because they are breaking the law.

”If after the one-week and they don’t, then we will take necessary actions to show that they need to comply with the law.”

But after the compliance of the MDAs in February, appropriation committees of both chambers can be said to have spent the entire Months of March and April to tidy up the whole process.

Also recall that worried over the non passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, President Muhammadu Buhari in March this year, met with the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, striking a deal on how both arms of government will work in synergy to see to the quick and possible passage of the 2018 budget, for the overall interest of the country.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had met with the President at the Presidential Villa to, among others, deliberate on the thorny aspects of the budget.