Why we increased N2018 budget by N500bn-Reps
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The House of Representatives, Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber has justified the decision of the National Assembly to increase the 2018 budget proposal presented to it by over N500billion from N8.612billion to N9.120trillion, insisting that it was done in good faith and in the overall national interest.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had November 17 2017, presented the Federal Government’s budget proposal of N8.612 trillion for the 2018 fiscal year to a joint session of the National Assembly comprising the Senate and House of Representatives, which it tagged budget of consolidation, in which it benchmarked crude oil price at$45 per barrel, which they are yet to pass six months after. As part of the processes that would culminate in the passage of the budget, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, yesterday laid the report of the budget estimates before the upper legislative chamber, the Senate, indicating that the initial budget estimates have been increased by over N500billion.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Chris Azubuogu, who spoke in Abuja Wednesday in defence of the increase, also said that it was done in conjunction with the executive arm of the Federal Government in order to address some issues that cropped up after the submission of the estimates.
According to him, the initial estimates were for instance based on a projected price of crude oil at $45 per barrel, which now sells for over $70 per barrel as well as some other contingencies in the economy, which were never anticipated last year when the estimates were presented before the legislative arm of the government.
He listed some of such contingencies to include the National Health Fund, which needed to be funded in the new budget as well as the creation of additional federal universities, which needed to be given take-off grants, among several others.
Azubuogu also noted that the 2017 budget has done very well in terms of implementation going by figures released by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in which she said that out of a total of N2.7 trillion approved for capital projects, a total of N1.5trillion has already been released and spent on capital projects across the country.
Contrary to insinuations that the passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill was unduly delayed by the National Assembly, the Deputy Chairman, who assured that the budget would be passed not later than May 17, (tomorrow), said there was no delay, as the legislative arm needed ample time to do a thorough work on the budget, especially in view of recent developments not only in the country’s economy but also across the globe.
He also insists that since the life circle of the 2017 budget will end on June 11, 2018, the country will not run two budgets at the same time, adding that the passed budget will immediately be transmitted to the President for his assent to herald the coming on stream of the new budget.
The report on the 2018 budget has been laid before the Senate after several delays.
The national assembly had promised to pass the N8.6 trillion budget on April 24 but it failed to do so and thereafter the House of Representatives slated May 3, and then the following week, which could also not be achieved.
“By next week, everything about the budget will be treated and passed,” Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman of the lower legislative chamber, had said then.
But the report on the budget was not laid in either of the chambers as the senate did not sit on the Thursday of that week.
Meanwhile, on May 7, Senate President Bukola Saraki, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, had told journalists that the bill would be laid ‘early next week’.
“Well, hopefully, it should be laid this week. If it can’t be laid this week, early next week but we are hoping it will be laid this week”, he had promised.