Buhari kicks against injection of N578bn as he signs 2018 budget

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*Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mustapher Dawaki; SSA National Assembly, Senate, Senator Ita Enang; Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje; President Muhammadu Buhari (sitting); Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Chief Whip House of Representatives, Hon. Doguwa and the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari during the signing ceremony of the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law at the State House, Abuja. Photo credit: Vanguard.

President Muhammadu Buhari has accused the national assembly of overburdening the federal government by factoring 6,403 projects amounting to N578 billion into the 2018 budget.

Buhari who stated this today in Abuja during the signing of the 2018 appropriation bill said such projects are meant for states and local government areas.

The budget, estimated at N8.26 trillion, was presented to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017.

The legislators later increased it to N9.1 trillion, representing an increment of N508 billion.

Buhari said he was not pleased that the lawmakers altered the 2018 spending plan he sent to them for approval.

He said he may remedy the situation through a supplementary and/or amendment budget.

“I am however concerned about some of the changes @nassnigeria has made to the budget proposals 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,” said the president.

He said the national assembly, instead, introduced a total of 6,403 projects amounting to N578 billion, some of which he said will be difficult to execute because they have not been properly “conceptualized, designed and costed”.

Many of the projects, according to Buhari, are critical to Nigeria’s economy and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.

Some of the projects with reduced funding are:

*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.

*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 N100 million This will make it impossible for the federal government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the UN 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 were 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 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.

Meanwhile, the national assembly has said that it is not bothered by concerns raised by the president.

Speaking in Abuja after the president had signed the budget, the senate deputy majority leader Bala Ibn Na’Allah noted that passing the budget the way it was sent to the national assembly would have pitted constituents against their elected legislators.

“No, we are not worried. The job of parlia­mentarians is a very difficult one. The ­way the budget came, if we had allowed i­t to go that way, we would have been in ­trouble with those who elected us.

“You have to balance between the six geo polit­ical zones. It is the balancing efforts ­by the national assembly that led to tho­se observations and happily enough, he h­imself has said he is coming with a supp­lementary budget which will be dealt wit­h as quickly as possible, I assure you a­bout that one,” he said.

On the delay in passing the budget, Na’Allah said ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) were not forthcoming with their presentations to the national assembly.

“About the issue of delay, the president ­is right, but at the same time, if you r­emember, you were here, the president ha­d to order some MDAs to appear before th­e Assembly for the purpose of defending ­their budgets.

“It’s a very delicate issue if somebody ­said he wants N500 million for the maint­enance of bridges nationwide, then you e­xpect the national assembly to say Okay t­hat budget is approved because it came f­rom the executive, then we have not done­ our work.

“We will be interested in know­ing which of the roads you are going to ­maintain so that again, we don’t give an­other allocation in the next budget,” said Na’Allah.

With The Guardian reports

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