Sen. Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) has pleaded with his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives not to boycott the 2019 Budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ndume told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja that if the comment credited to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr Udoma Udoma, on the budget was true, it was unnecessary.
Some members of the House of Representatives had on Thursday threatened to boycott the budget presentation over reports that the minister blamed the National Assembly for delaying the process.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Dec. 6, in an executive communique, announced that he would present the 2019 Budget to the National Assembly on Dec. 12.
However, as at Dec. 13, when the Senate adjourned plenary for the week, no letter to that effect was read at plenary, creating uncertainty around the presentation before the National Assembly adjourns for the year.
Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, urged his colleagues to reconsider their position in the interest of the nation.
“I understand the reactions of the honourable members, is as a result of the unnecessary comment credited to the Minister of Budget as to who is responsible for the delay.
“My take on this is that two wrongs do not make a right and I want to appeal to my colleagues in the House of Representatives to have a rethink because the President is not responsible for what the minister was alleged to have said.
“I feel national interest should be placed above any individual or group interest.
“As for the Senate, the letter from Mr President as to when to present the budget has not been read,” he said.
The lawmaker pointed out that, to quicken passage, it was imperative for the budget to reach the parliament before the Christmas break.
He said: “I feel the best thing to do is for the president to present the budget, especially before we go on Christmas break.
“So that copies of the budget will be circulated to members to enable them start work on it.
“On resumption immediately after Christmas, we will start working on considering the budget for passage.
“So, I feel the reasonable thing to do is to receive Mr President in a joint session because it is very key to our national interest.
On alleged plans by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to create illegal polling units in Niger and Chad in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ndume said the commission was being guided by law.
He expressed concern that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was crying wolf on the matter where there was none.
“I am aware of voting in various places, but I do not know if PDP wants to be INEC. The law is there and all actions of INEC will be guided by law.
“I was one of the senators in the 7th Assembly that moved for amendment of the Electoral Act to accommodate Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
“This was to ensure that they are not disenfranchised and I think that is what INEC is saying about the allegation by PDP.
“So, if PDP has any issue with that, I think they should look at the law first because INEC is responsible for conducting the election not PDP.”
NAN reports that on Dec, 7, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the 2019 budget proposal.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the session, the Minister of Budget and Planning, Udoma Udoma said the Council will liaise with the National Assembly to determine when the president will submit the draft estimates for the consideration of the two chambers.
When asked to give details of the budget proposal, he declined to disclose the details, saying that the Nigerian constitution only allows the president to give out the details and that the President would do so when the National Assembly is ready to receive the draft/
The FEC had on Oct. 24, approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2019 to 2021 to provide template for the 2019 budget.
The session which was presided over by President Buhari approved a budget estimate of N8.73tr for the 2019 budget, N400 billion lower than that of this year.
It will be recalled that, Udoma, had in Novemebr announced that the federal government was considering a leaner 2019 budget of N8.6 trillion, which is leaner than the N9.1 trillion approved by lawmakers for 2018.
He had explained at a consultative forum on the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) and a strategy paper (FSP) 2019 to 2021, that the decision was due to reduced government revenue projection for the year.
Udoma also said government planned to cut down the level of borrowing from N1.6 trillion in 2018 to N1.5 trillion in 2019, while the deficit component would be reduced from N1.9 trillion in 2018 to N1.6 trillion.
In spite of the recent oil output drop to about 1.9 million barrels per day, Udoma said government was optimistic the 2.3 million barrels a day target was achievable with production now rising to about 2.15 million barrels a day and new oil productions being put into play.
Although a $50 per barrel oil price benchmark was proposed in the ERGP, the minister had expressed confidence that with a significant rise in the price above $80 per barrel currently, government has proposed a $60 per barrel oil price for the budget.
He further stated that N305 was proposed as exchange rate to the dollar, with government working to keep inflation down after slight increases in the last two months on the heels of 18 months consecutive decline.
According to him, “Growth is expected to increase from 0.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.1 per cent this year and 3.01 per cent in 2019 with the continued implementation of the ERGP in 2019 and improved outlook for oil prices.”
On revenue, Udoma had said based on the oil price and oil production assumptions, government expected to generate about N3.6 trillion from oil, up by about N500 billion from last year’s figure.
About N6.9 trillion revenue is projected to be available to the budget in 2019.
With other projections showing government expects to collect less revenue from some independent sources, he said only about N624 billion is expected to be realised, against about N847 billion in the 2018 budget, among others.