The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has urged the Federal Government to address the status of the N203.38bn recovered loot and the Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks (MTEF) in the 2019 budget proposal presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly.
The Lead Director of the CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, made the call in his preliminary review of the 2019 Federal Appropriation Bill.
According to him, the 2019 budget proposal of N8.83trn represents a 3.18 percent decrease when compared to 2018 appropriation of N9.12trn.
He however listed what he called positive notes of the proposal to include the emphasis on the completion of existing capital projects instead of starting new ones and abandoning the existing ones, as this would lead to faster completion of capital projects.
Also is the inclusion of the expenditure plans of larger Government Owned Enterprises (GOEs; N275.88bn) as well as bilateral and multilateral tied loans (N556.02bn) into the 2019-2021 Medium Term Fiscal Framework, which is expected to improve comprehensiveness and transparency of the overall expenditure plan; and also the continued expenditure on Social Intervention Projects (SIP), Presidential Amnesty Programme in the Niger Delta and the North East Intervention Fund among others.
On some of the key challenges and concerns arising from the budget, Onyekpere listed the late presentation as the December 19, was too late in the year and a few days to the start of the legislative Christmas and New Year Break.
“The fact that there is no approved Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) 2019-2021 as stated in Section 18 of the FRA Framework. Thus, strictly speaking in law, there cannot be an executive budget submitted for legislative approval without the approval of the MTEF. Illegality may have occurred in the preparation and presentation of the budget.
“The filibustering involved in the attempt to set up a “High Powered Technical Committee” to advise on ways of funding the new minimum wage agreed with labour. This may lead the organized labour to start a strike that will paralyze the country.
“It is not clear whether the N203.38bn recovered loot is already in the bag or being expected. This should be clarified by the fiscal authorities. If it is an expected sum, then it should not be made a revenue source as there is no certainty that it will be realized. It should only be appropriated when it has already been realized through a supplementary appropriation,” he said.
While also listing that the Federal Government has been silent on the trillions of Naira accruing to it as stamp duties over the years, Onyekpere said Nigerians suffer deductions from their bank accounts and the money seems to have been lost in a black hole as no one accounts for it.
Also, “the President should make up his mind on what he wants out of reform bills such as the Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill. He should liaise with the National assembly to get the Bill signed into law,” he added.