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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

2018 Budget Debate: Senates Says They Cannot Conclude In January, Says It's Not Workable

Nigerian Senate
Nigerian Senate

Another round of face-off looms between the executive and the legislature over the N8.612 trillion 2018 Budget is imminent as the Senate on Tuesday, criticised President Muhammadu Buhari on what it referred to as shoddy preparations of the budget, which it hinted, will face implementation challenges. 

The foul mood by the senators against the budget had contradicted an earlier position of the Senate on the early passage of the budget. Currently, Senate President, Bukola Saraki is under tension amid a resolve by an Court of Appeal that his trial on alleged corruption and false assets declaration should begin in earnest. 

Senators after senators, during Tuesday’s Plenary, condemned the budget, which they described as hollow and un-implementable, indicating therefore that the process of passage would wait till March next year if a through work must be done on it. 

The Senate had on December 5, 2017, adjourned Plenary for two weeks to allow its standing committees to meet officials of the various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for defence sessions on their budget estimates. 

It took the stand on a belief that its committee on appropriation would submit report which would ultimately help the process of early passage as planned. But the Senators, however, made a U-turn from their earlier plan when they roundly condemned the budget and officials of the government who prepared it, insisting that the budget contained no significant improvements against the 2017 budget, which it said, ran into a hitch over implementation. 

The Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah ( APC, Kebbi South), fired the first salvo against the President, claiming that reports reaching the Senate from the various committees indicated that budgetary pronouncements by the President were not in anyway reflective in the submissions being made by heads of the MDAs. 

Na’ Allah, who came through a Point of Order to facilitate the debate on the subject matter, said the 60% of the capital component of the 2017 Budget, which the President promised to roll over to the 2018 Budget was not in anyway reflected in any of the 2018 Budget sub missions made by heads of the MDAs so far. 

He said, Buhari, in his budget speech, also promised that implementation of the capital component should be about 40 to 50% by December. He noted that few days to the end of 2017, the realities on the ground based on records of the MDAs so far met, showed that the performance of the capital component of the 2017 Budget is still far below 20%. 

He said, “Based on realities on the ground, the Senate needs to review its earlier position on passing the budget before the end of this year by ensuring that proper things are done in line with extant acts and laws; and in the general interest of Nigerians. 

“Performance of the 2017 Budget must be properly scrutinized in meeting up with expected standard before rushing into passage of the 2018 Budget.” Also, Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue North East ), said an earlier plan of passing the budget this month in meeting up with Buhari’s wish of January to December budget year was no longer realistic. 

He suggested that the life span of the capital component of the 2017 Budget should be extended to March 31, 2018 to pave way for the needed thorough work on the 2018 Budget estimates, which according him, can take off on April 1, 2018. Gemade added, “We have to handle the matter in realistic way. 

Therefore, we have to set a date for the implementation of the 2017 Budget based on the borrowing plan, which had been approved, and the roughshod that they did. 

“When we specify that period, then we will hold the various MDAs responsible to bring here the complete report of what they actually have produced; and therefore the balance of the 2017 capital budget will be rolled over in a manner that will satisfy the agreement that we have undertaken.

 “I therefore propose that we should be looking at a date of March 31 to allow the capital budget of 2017 to be implemented to the extent of the funding windows that are available and therefore begin the 2018 Budget from April 1; and allow the committees really get to the root of what is still pending in 2017 Budget in order to roll over those projects so that we don’t have a barrage of abandoned projects all over the country because of whatever has happened in the mistake of appropriation proposals.” 

Other senators who also contributed to the debate, also lampooned the executive for forwarding to them what they described as ‘very shoddy budget estimates, projections and pronouncements.’ Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), said: “The 2018 Budget is already bedeviled going by the abysmal performance of the 2017 Budget is anchored on . 

“Overhead component of the budget is as worse as the capital component . “Therefore, every consideration of the 2018 Budget should be put on hold until the real performance of the 2017 Budget is established to know the exact percentage of rollover to be done for the 2018”. 

Senator Adeola Olamilekan (APC, Lagos West), in his own submission, said the whole crises surrounding the implementation of the 2017 Budget and consideration of the 2018 estimates were caused by the gross incompetence of the economic team of the President. 

Senator Dino Melaye ( APC, Kogi West), in his own submissions, described the 2018 Budget speech presented to the National Assembly by Buhari in November, as one full of lies and deceits . He said: “ There is no correlation or relationship between the 2017 and the 2018 budgets. I realised that it was impossible for the executive to know as at the time the budget was being put together, which project will be completed talk less of rolling them over. That is to say the budget we received was a ‘boji boji budget’. 

“We cannot live in deception and expect prosperity.There is an outstanding of N1.4 trillion stamp duty that has accumulated with the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) that has not been remitted into the federation account.

 “We need to strengthen the capacity of our treasury, we need to empower and strengthen the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to collect accruable revenue from all MDAs, so that there will be money for implementation of our budgets. 

“In 2016, the NNPC was supposed to pay over N300billion as IGR into the Federation Account, but no kobo was paid into it, and no kobo has been paid in 2017. And all these revenues are hanging; and we say we are fighting corruption. 

It is time for the Senate to ask these agencies of government to remit such monies, “Why are we borrowing when we have monies scattered in the MDAs. The issue of discussing the 2018 Budget does not arise. We must make sure that the 2017 Budget is properly implemented. 

We must make sure that the budget is not elitist; it is budget of the poor, masses that is acceptable to the downtrodden in the society” But Saraki in his remarks, backed the submissions of the Senators that the 2018 Budget cannot be considered or passed for now. He said, “By now, the 2017 Budget should have been implemented either 40 or 60 per cent but, this has not been the case. 

This makes it very difficult for us, we cannot turn ourselves into magicians. “But, I will continue to appeal that you work within what you have and let us do our best to ensure that we have a budget that is in the interest of Nigerians.

 “The executive on their part, should sit up and stop rhetoric, but really get down to work. If the 2017 Budget items are not rolled over to the 2018 Budget as declared by the President, that is a disaster. The executive should show some seriousness toward the budget exercise.” Meanwhile, the Federal Government has commenced the release of the N750billion capital projects for 2017 to MDAs. 

Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, stated this on Monday, during the ministry’s budget defense when she appeared before Senate Committee on Finance at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja. She said, “The accounts of the MDAs are being credited as I speak. If the MDAs check their balances, they will have different balances in their accounts”. 

The minister also explained that the ongoing capital projects would be rolled over into 2018, adding that “with the capital budget release, we expect many of the ongoing projects by the MDAs to be completed.” She commended the leadership and members of the National Assembly for their support in approving the issuance of Eurobond, stressing that some of the funds are being deployed in the execution of the 2017 Budget, while the balance is being used to refinance the country’s existing debt.

Adeosun had, in a meeting with a delegation of investors from France recently, disclosed that the N750bn would be release for capital projects. 

The 2017 Budget, christened “Budget of Recovery and Growth,” was presented to the National Assembly on December 14, 2016, and passed by the lawmakers in May. 

The fiscal document, which was signed into law by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on June 12, 2017, then as Acting President, has a total expenditure of N7.44tn out of which N2.99tn is for nondebt recurrent spending; N2.36tn for capital expenditure, while debt servicing is to gulp N1.66tn. 

Adeosun said the government had previously released the sum of N450bn for capital projects, adding that with the additional N750bn, a total of N1.2trn would have been invested in infrastructure projects.


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