National Assembly defends 2018 budget alterations

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

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Nigeria’s parliament, the National Assembly has defended its increase of allocations in some of the items in the 2018 budget, noting that all the actions taken during the Appropriation process were done to promote equity and justice across the country.

President Buhari, while signing the 2018 Appropriations Bill into law, expressed worry that the budget may be difficult to implement following some of the alterations made by the lawmakers.

At a joint press conference on Friday in Abuja, the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on media and public affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi, and Mr. Abdulrahaman Namdas, confirmed that the alterations were done in the interest of Nigerians, and within constitutional provisions.

Senator Aliyu Sabi argued that the National Assembly was not alone in taking decisions during the Appropriation process, stressing that all stakeholders in the budget process were involved in the exercise.

According to him: “This is not a matter of blame game because, we examined every item properly and gave due attention to all segments which are justifiable.”

The items in the 2018 budget which got increased allocations by the National Assembly were dully Appropriated for, after consultation with relevant government Agencies like the Ministry of budget and National Planning, among others.

“Based on agreement between the National Assembly and the Executive as represented by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the additional revenues were allocated among the three arms of government as follows:

The Executive’s proposal for the National Judicial Council was N100billion, however, the National Assembly appropriated N110 billion which represents N10 billion increase.

The Executive’s proposal for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was N71,195,023,529, however the National Assembly appropriated N81,882,555,891 — which represents a N10,687,532,363 increase.

An additional N33,981,437,188 was also appropriated for the outstanding liabilities to the NDDC by the Federal Government to enable the commission settle some of its contractors that were owed over N1 trillion.

The National Assembly received an additional N14.5billion in funding. In order to ensure that they are able to meet their mandate, the National Assembly increased the Public Complaint’s Commission’s budget from the N4,200,000,000 proposed by the President to N7,480,000,000 — which represents a N3,280,000,000 increase; and the National Human Rights Commission’s budget was increased from N1.5billion to N3,013,745,000, which represents a N1,513,745,000 increase.”

On the issue of the 104 Unity Schools across the nation and the claim that N3billion was cut from their funding, the lawmakers urged Nigerians to know that after careful consultation by the committees of the National Assembly with stakeholders in the sector, the National Assembly actually provided an additional N3.7billion more for meal subsidies in these 104 Unity Schools.

Addressing the issue of the Second Niger Bridge project, the Senate spokesman insisted that, “apart from early works, as of today, there is no existing contract for the Second Niger Bridge in spite of frequent requests from the National Assembl,” he added. He said the N900million reduced from the N10billion proposed by the Executive was deployed to fund ancillary roads that connect to the Bridge.

“It should again be noted that the N12.5billion and the N7.5billion appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budget by the National Assembly were never utilized for the project”.

The legislators also called on President Buhari to present the borrowing plan to the National Assembly for quick approval, in order to ensure that all Capital Projects in the 2018 budget receive their necessary financing in the 2018 budget.