- Security, anti-corruption, wealth creation, oil subsidy, top priority
- Assembly workers banned from premises
Security has been beefed up within and around the premises of the National Assembly ahead of today’s presentation of the much-awaited 2016 Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigerian Pilot learnt that, besides the routine checks and vigilance of the various stern-looking security personnel manning the entire symbol of authority in the heart of Abuja, all the parliamentary staff and those working for private organisations in the legislative arm have been asked to stay at home.
The stay-at-home order by the management of National Assembly, however, exempted security operatives, medical staff and those working in the two chambers of the federal legislature.
A circular from the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa issued to that effect yesterday, explained that the directive was aimed at ensuring maximum security and preventing any form of rowdiness during the budget presentation by the President. The circular signed by the Director, Personnel Management, Mamud A Abubakar on behalf of the Clerk, however, warned that appropriate punishment would be meted out to any staff found flouting the order.
The statement entitled: ‘Presentation of 2016 Budget to National Assembly by President Muhamnadu Buhari’ reads: “The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari is presenting the 2016 budget to the National Assembly on Tuesday, December 22, 2015.
“In view of the above, all staff of the National Assembly as well as the operators of business outfits in the National Assembly complex with exception of those on essential duties – security and medical staff are directed to stay away from the NASS complex on 22nd December, 2015.
“Any staff found to have violated this instruction will face appropriate disciplinary action.”
Business organizations affected by the order include all operators of banks, eateries, airlines, insurance outfits, telecommunication centres and the National Open University Office, NOUN.
Our correspondent gathered that, already, security operatives have taken over the premises of the National Assembly complex and its environs as at yesterday evening just as last minute preparations for the event were seen carried out by staffers of the legislature, including laying of the red carpet from the main entrance in the White House to the House of Representatives chamber where the joint session is expected to hold for the budget presentation.
It would be recalled that last week, President Buhari, in separate letters addressed to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, requested for 10.00hrs to formally present the 2016 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly.
In his words: “I crave the kind indulgence of the National Assembly to grant me the slot of 1000hrs on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 to formally address a joint session of the National Assembly on the 2016 Budget.
“While I thank the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic for your steadfast cooperation and understanding, please accept, Honourable Speaker, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
In the 2016-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF and Fiscal Policy Strategy, FPS, submitted to the National Assembly earlier, the federal government earmarked N500 billion for the implementation of its social security scheme for unemployed young graduates, comprising the amount to be spent on the government’s school feeding initiative as well as conditional cash transfers of N5,000 to “the most vulnerable persons in the society”.
According to the MTEF, the scheme, which will commence in collaboration with state governments, will start as a pilot, following which the federal government will later seek the support of donor agencies.
“The federal government will collaborate with state governments to institute well-structured social welfare intervention programmes such as school feeding programme initiatives, conditional cash transfers to the most vulnerable and post-NYSC grant.
“N500 billion has been provisioned in the 2016 budget as social investment for these programmes.
“These interventions will start as a pilot scheme and work towards securing the support of donor agencies and our development partners in order to minimise potential risks,” the document stated.
The federal government also explained that in the future, a broader social welfare scheme would be created to cater for the larger population which it said would include the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians “upon evidence of children’s enrolment in school and evidence of immunisation”.
In order to legalise the scheme, a bill seeking to provide a framework for a social security scheme passed through the first reading in the Senate only recently.
However, the government only provided N63.29 billion as fuel subsidy in 2016, compared to the N42.20 billion budgeted in the 2015 fiscal year but failed to make a provision for emergency subsidy as was the case in the 2015 budget when N217 billion was provided for emergency petrol subsidy.
The government also made no allocation for kerosene subsidy, but budgeted another N150 billion as arrears for fuel subsidy claims carried over from 2015.
The government has spent N402 billion on subsidy in 2015. This amount was part of the N522 billion recently approved by the National Assembly in a supplementary budget sent by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It put the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) share of the Excess Crude Account in the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) in 2016 at N241.5 billion.
According to the document, the N6.077 trillion budget with a revenue target of N3.82 trillion, projects a deficit of N2.22 trillion or 2.16 per cent of GDP, and projects that recurrent expenditure will drop from 84 per cent in this year’s budget to 70 per cent in 2016 while capital expenditure of 16 per cent in the 2015 budget was raised to 30 per cent in 2016.
The revenue target of N3.82 trillion shows that value added tax (VAT) in 2016 will contribute N67.7 billion from the N67.5 billion projected in 2015.
The government is also projecting an average growth rate in 2016 of 4.37 per cent and expects this to increase by 10 per cent year-on-year through 2017 to 4.61 per cent in 2018.
The government also said it would continue to prune the size of its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) without compromising efficiency, just as it ruled out the possibility of increasing salaries and allowances of workers as well as pensions and other benefits in the next fiscal year.
The government also explained the rationale behind the implementation of Treasury Single Account, TSA, saying: “Multiplicity of government accounts had made it difficult to have an accurate picture of public financial resources.”
It added that it would pursue macro-economic policies and a sector growth strategy that would achieve fiscal stability and improve non-oil sector competitiveness.
The government also said its fiscal policy would support a low interest rate regime as well as low inflation through strict adherence to target levels of the fiscal deficit, adding that fiscal incentives would encourage industrial and manufacturing sectors and attract new domestic and foreign investments.