President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he was compelled to sign the the 2018 appropriation bill containing budget estimates as approved by the National Assembly into law in other not to keep the economy continuously on standstill.

This is even as he regretted that the federal lawmakers made reductions amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.

President Buhari stated this at the budget-signing ceremony Wednesday witnessed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Senator Ibn N’alla, who represented Senate President Bukola Saraki; and Honorable Ado Doguwa, who represented Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

According to the president the National Assembly tinkered with the budget of major projects which are critical, lamenting that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.

Buhari said the remedy is to send supplementary or amendment budget soon, expressing the hope that when ready, the National Assembly would give it an expeditious consideration.

He signed the budget at about 12 noon on Wednesday inside his office at the Presidential Villa Abuja.

The National Assembly up the budget to N9.1 trillion from the N8.6 trillion estimates the President submitted to the Assembly on November 7, 2017.

The two chambers of the National Assembly passed the budget on May 16, six months after it was presented by the president.

The Assembly raised the total figure by N500 million.

They also increased the oil benchmark proposed by the executive from $45 to $51 per barrel.

The Assembly however, retained oil production volume proposed at 2.3 million barrels per day and an exchange rate at N305 to $1.

The budget as passed by the two chambers also has N530,421,368,624 as statutory transfer; N2,203,835,365,699 for debt service; N1,954,464,993,775 as fiscal deficit.

The passed budget was transmitted to the presidency for assent on May 25 through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Ita Enang.

Enang, on Wednesday, took copies of the budget to the office of the president at about 11:35pm.

The President during the brief ceremony said, “As I mentioned during the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, we intend to use the 2018 Budget to consolidate the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020.

“It is in this regard that 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 N347 billion 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 conceptualised, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute.

“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.”

President Buhari listed the some of projects affected to include the provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as counterpart 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 which he said were cut by an aggregate of N11.5 billion.

Buhari also said provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in Abuja, especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project were cut by a total of N7.5 billion.

He stated that 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, Buhari said, would make it impossible for the Federal Government to fulfill its commitment to the UN on the project.

He added, “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 N3bn 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 N5bn was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.

“The provisions for Export Expansion Grant and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialisation initiatives of this administration, were cut by a total of N14.5 billions.

“The provision for construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2bn 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 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.

“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 N25 billion to N139.5 billion without any discussion with the Executive.”

He explains that despite these observations he decided to sign the document so that the pace of recovery of the nation’s economy would not be further slowed down.

Buhari said the remedy is to send supplementary or amendment budget soon, expressing the hope that when ready, the National Assembly would give it an expeditious consideration.

“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.

“However, it is my intention to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which I hope the National Assembly will be able to expeditiously consider,” he added.

The president also said he was pleased with the success recorded in the implementation of the 2017 Budget.

He said N1.5 trillion had been released for the implementation of capital projects during the 2017 fiscal year.

In response to this and other policy measures implemented, he said his government had observed significant improvement in the performance of the Nigerian economy.

To achieve the laudable objectives of the 2018 Budget, President Buhari said his administration would work hard to generate the revenues required to finance its projects and programmes.

He said the positive global oil market outlook, as well as continuing improvement in non-oil revenues, made him optimistic about the government’s ability to finance the budget.

According to him, “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.

“The 2018 Budget I have just signed into law provides for aggregate expenditures of N9.12 trillion which is 22.6% higher than the 2017 Appropriation. Further details of the approved budget will be provided by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.

“I thank the Minister of Budget and National Planning, the Budget Office of the Federation, and everyone who worked tirelessly and sacrificed so much to bring us to this day. However, the job is only partly done.

“I am sure you will remain committed to advancing our Change Agenda, not only in the preparation of the national budget but also in ensuring its effective implementation.”

The President noted that when he submitted the 2018 Budget proposals to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017, he had hoped that the usual legislative review process would be quick, so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year.

He said while the Federal Government’s budget represents less than 10% of aggregate yearly expenditures in the economy, it has a very significant accelerator effect on the financial plans of other tiers of government, and even more importantly, the private sector, which mostly operates on a January-December financial year.

Notwithstanding the delay this year, he said he was determined to continue to work with the National Assembly towards improving the budgeting process and restoring the country to the January-December fiscal cycle.

Speaking to State House Correspondents, N’Allah said, “The 2018 budget has been signed today. The president made it clear that it is going to be a build up on the achievements recorded so far in this administration in impacting positively on the life of Nigerians, I think that is what Nigerians should be happy about.”

Asked if the President’s concerns were a source of worry, the lawmaker said, “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.

On the President’s complain about the delay in passing the budget, N’Allah said, “About the issue of delay, the president is right, but at the same time, if you remember, you were here when 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 are you going to maintain so that again, we don’t give another allocation in the next budget.

Those observations are correct but in the budgeting process those things are normal.”

Doguwa on the concerns raised by President Buhari said, “I think some of these major concerns Mr. President has raised are very critical and I am afraid if I should be in a position to respond on behalf of the House. But for me as an individual and a member of the House of Representatives, I want to belief that the president is at liberty to raise some of these observations. But the most important thing you have to know is that the budget has been signed and is now a law of the federation and we expect the executive to now implement the law to the latter.

“Should the president however, brings about an amendments or a supplementary budget for the National Assembly to consider. We will also at the same time be at liberty to look at the president’s concerns and those things he wants us to now review and I want to belief the National Assembly is always in a position to work hand in hand with Mr. President. A lot of us in both chambers of the National Assembly have tremendous respect for Mr. President and we cherish his moral integrity as a leader. I want to belief we will always play in tune to his expectations to make him deliver on the dividends of democracy that he promised especially in this period of election.

“Some of us that are in the APC, and even a lot of members that are in opposition are quiet aware of the enormous responsibility on the shoulders of Mr President. Now is the right time to cooperate with Mr President and give him what he desires as the leader of the government.

“Certainly you wouldn’t expect us to just rubber stamp and just bring it back. We have to do the nitty gritty of budget consideration. Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well and we have done what we think is the right thing to do to deliver on the expectations and the mandate bestowed on us by the people of our constituencies.”

On why Dogara was absent, he said “Well the Speaker is unavoidably absent, but wherever the Speaker may be now, he will be sharing in spirit the moment of this auspicious occasion we have just finished.”

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