President Buhari signs 2018 appropriation bill into law

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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President Muhammadu Buhari flanked by the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo Signs the 2018 Budget. Others are Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, Chairman House Committee on Appropriations, Hon Mustapha Bala, SSAP on National Assembly (House) Hon Sulieman Kwau, SSAP on National Assembly (Senate) Sen Ita Enang during the Signing of the 2018 Budget at the State House in Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the 2018 appropriation bill of N9.12 trillion into law.

The event took place at the office of President, located at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The President pledged to fully implement the budget in accordance to budgetary provisions.

 Budget Changes

President Buhari however, raised concerns over various changes made by the National Assembly on the 2018 budget, thus making it difficult for government to implement some sections of the budget.

The Nigerian leader highlighted that the budget was cut up to the tune of N347 billion, thus affecting over 4000 critical projects.

He said: “I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented.  The logic behind the Constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that, it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects. Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me.  The National Assembly made cuts amounting to 347 billion Naira in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion. Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.  Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute.”

Critical Projects

President Buhari lamented the National Assembly introduced a lot of projects into the budget that were lumped in the allocations of some Ministries Departments and Agencies that do not have the capacity to implement them.

Furthermore, 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 N11.5 billion. 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 N7.5 billion.

“The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by N3.9 billion from N4 billion to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfil 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 N7.45 billion.

“The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country was cut by N3 billion 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 N8.7 billion. At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of N5 billion 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 N14.5 billion. The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2 billion to N500 million, 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 N5 billion to N3.4 billion. 

“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, President Buhari explained.

NASS Budget

The President also noted with disappointment that the National Assembly increased its own budget, running into billions of naira.

He said: “Another area of concern is the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96 billion.  Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are 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 N14.5 billion from N125 billion to N139.5 billion without any discussion with the Executive.”

He however said he had to sign the budget, in order to sustain the growth of Nigeria’s economy.

Notwithstanding the above stated observations, I have decided to sign the 2018 Budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget, he said.

The Nigerian leader, who expressed his determination to continue to collaborate with the National Assembly to return Nigeria’s budget year from January to December, expressed delight at the successes already recorded in the implementation of the 2017 budget.

I would like to thank the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as all the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, for passing the 2018 Appropriation Bill, after seven months.

Notwithstanding the delay this year, I am determined to continue to work with the National Assembly towards improving the budgeting process and restoring our country to the January-December fiscal cycle. I note, with pleasure, that the National Assembly is working on the enactment of an Organic Budget Law, so as to improve the efficiency of the nation’s budgetary process,” he stated.

President Buhari stated that in order to achieve the laudable objectives of the 2018 Budget, government will work very hard to generate the revenues required to finance its projects and programmes.

“The positive global oil market outlook, as well as continuing improvement in non-oil revenues, makes us optimistic about our ability to finance the budget.  However, being a deficit budget, the Borrowing Plan will be forwarded to the National Assembly shortly.  I crave the indulgence of the National Assembly for a speedy consideration and approval of the Plan,” he said.

He also said a supplementary budget will soon be sent to the National Assembly to augment the shortfalls caused by the adjustments made by the legislators.

The signing of the budget was witnessed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Ministers of Budget, finance, Information and Culture as well as representatives of the President of the Senate and the Speaker, House of Representatives.

Nnenna.O