Buhari signs 2018 budget, says NASS cut everything

Buhari signs 2018 budget, says NASS cut everything
June 20 21:21 2018

By Ahmed Idris

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday signed into law the 2018 Appropriation Bill of N9.12 trillion, seven months after the estimate was submitted to the National Assembly.

The federal government approved N8.612 trillion but the lawmakers increased it to N9.12 trillion.

The lawmakers also increased the crude oil benchmark for the budget from $45 per barrel to $50.5 per barrel.

Speaking during signing of the budget in his office at the Presidential Villa innAbuja, the President expressed concern over changes made to the budget by the lawmakers.

He said the lawmakers cut allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration amounting to N347 billion and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.

He said: “Many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.

“As it is, some of these projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the states and local governments, and for which the federal government should therefore not be unduly burdened.

“Such examples of projects from which cuts were made are as follows: The provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of 11.5 billion Naira.

“Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of 7.5 billion Naira.

“The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by 3.9 billion Naira from 4 billion Naira to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.

“The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of 7.45 billion Naira.

“The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by 3 billion Naira at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.

“The provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme was cut by 8.7 billion Naira. At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of 5 billion Naira was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.

“The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of 14.5 billion Naira.

“The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira which will further delay the completion of this critical project. The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from 5 billion Naira to 3.4 billion Naira.

“About seventy (70) new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote. Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly.”

The President also expressed concern over increase in the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96 billion by the lawmakers, saying most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time the present administration is trying to keep down the cost of governance.

“An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by 14.5 billion Naira, from 125 billion Naira to 139.5 billion Naira without any discussion with the executive,” he said.

The President said he decided to sign the budget despite changes by the National Assembly in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of the country’s economy, which has been affected by the delay in passing the budget.

He said, however, that he intends to seek to remedy for some of the most critical issues through a supplementary and/or amendment to the budget.

The President thanked the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as all the Senators and Members, for passing the 2018 Appropriation Bill, after seven months.