- NASS helpless over President’s spending
00Has President Muhammadu Buhari dumped the 2015 Budget? This is the question on the lips of Nigerians at the weekend when Nigerian Pilot’s correspondents went round major cities of the country on assessment of the performance of this year’s budget which was passed into law by the 7th National Assembly on 28th April, 2015.
Curiously, barely four and half months to the end of the 2015 fiscal year, not much has been seen or heard about the budget from the present administration. Both the President’s spokespersons and those of the Federal Ministry of Finance declined to comment on the matter when contacted.
Analysts say as a democratically elected president, Buhari is under oath to implement the budget as passed by the National Assembly as doing otherwise would amount to impeachment. They however added that the president has the option of forwarding to the National Assembly an amendment to the 2015 Appropriation Act, if he so desires or a supplementary budget containing items of expenditure not contained in the budget.
So far, they said that the little that has been heard from the president about the budget was that of next year 2016 which he ordered the National Planning Commission, NPC, to streamline with present economic realities.
The President ordered the NPC to go back to the drawing board and produce the framework for a 2016 national budget which will reduce recurrent expenditure and prioritise developmental projects.
Buhari gave the order after receiving a briefing from the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Bassey Akpanyung, at the Presidential Villa.
He told Dr. Akpanyung and directors of the NPC that capital projects must henceforth be given the fullest possible priority because Nigeria cannot achieve real development without adequate investment in capital and infrastructural projects.
While the president has tactically refrained from making any mention about the budget, he has however been spending huge sums of money from the Federation Account, an action that has made some Nigerians to question the source of such huge funds. Even the National Assembly which is constitutionally empowered by the Nigerian Constitution to appropriate funds as well as carry out oversight functions on the executive arm of government appeared to be helpless in the face of huge extra-budgetary spending by the executive, preferring rather to focus on solving its leadership problems and lobbying for juicy committee positions.
Some of the expenditures made by President Buhari so far include the N7.13billion shared by Federal and state governments as bailout funds, the release of $21million (N4.2billion) to the Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, and the $1m ( about N230million) donation to ECOWAS to fight the Ebola scourge. There is also the N5billion donation to terror victims in the North-East, amongst others.
The Senate on Tuesday, 28th April, 2015 passed the 2015 Budget following the passage of the same bill by the House of Representatives on 23rd April with an expenditure outlay of N4.493trillion (up from the N4.425 trillion proposed by former President Goodluck Jonathan. This represents an increase of N67.43billion.
Of the N882billion budgetary provision for borrowing, the Federal Government borrowed N473billion to meet up with recurrent expenditure, including salaries and overheads at May, 2015.
Although President Buhari has not made a categorical statement on his position on this year’s budget, insiders said MDAs have been drawing from the budget to meet recurrent expenditures such as salaries, allowances and petty expenses.
However, there has been no capital budget release this year resulting in contractors abandoning ongoing contracts across the country. Our correspondents report that major projects such as roads, rail, power projects, education, water schemes including dams, hospital projects and others have been abandoned. These projects ordinarily would have on completion generated employment to teeming youths as well as enhance economic activities.
When one of our correspondents contacted Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, he refused to comment on the matter. Rather, he refereed Nigerian Pilot to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance Mrs. Anastasia Mabi Daniel-Nwaobia, who could not be reached on phone. The ministry’s Press Secretary, Patricia Dewoifhe also refused to speak.
But Emmanuel Ijewere, former president, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN and Fort Dike, an All Progressives Congress, APC chieftain and former member, House of Representatives, representing Ihiala federal constituency, debunked the allegation that Buhari has dumped the 2015 Budget.
“There is no way a democratically elected government will spend money without appropriation in view of the constitutional implication of such action. Buhari knows this and as a democrat he is bound to obey the law and so far, I have not seen him do otherwise,” Dike said.
Ijewere on his part said: “It is obvious that capital vote has so far not been released from the 2015 Budget, possibly due to the financial crunch the country is facing, but same cannot be said of budget implementation as government is meeting its other financial obligations constantly.
The 2015 budget has a benchmark oil price of $53 per barrel ($1 higher than the budget proposal by the executive; generating extra revenue of N54.25 billion for FGN). Other key parameters driving the oil revenue side of the budget were retained: oil production volume of 2.2782mbpd and exchange rate of N190/$.
It is important to note that the NASS approved the N100billion and N45.52billion provisioned for fuel and kerosene subsidy proposed by the Executive.
While other components of non-oil revenue were also retained as proposed, FGN Independent Revenue was raised by N39.294billion, from N450 billion to N489.294billion.
Based on the above, Gross Federally Collectible Revenue increased by N169.845billion, from N9.61 trillion to N9.78 trillion, as a direct result of raising the benchmark price.
•FGN Budget Revenue: N3.452 trillion, up from N3.358 trillion.
On Expenditure, the aggregate expenditure passed was N4.493 trillion, N67.43 billion higher than the proposed aggregated expenditure of N4.425trillion.
Debt service remained unchanged with N943.62 billion
· Statutory transfers was increased by N9.34billion, from N366.28 billion to N375.62 billion
· NDDC increased from N45.78billion to N46.72billion (an increase of N940million), while UBE increased from N67.30billion to N68.38billion (an increase of N1.08billion). These are strictly based on formula driven by the increase benchmark oil price.
· NASS allocation was raised by N5billion, from N115billion to N120billion
· PCC was raised by N2billion, from N2 billion to N4 billion
· HRC was raised by N316million, from N1.2billion toN1.516billion
· Aggregate capital expenditure (inclusive of transfers and SURE-P) was increased to N722.20 billion, from N663.67billion (an increase of about N58.57 billion). This comprises of an increase of N37.77 billion in MDAs’ capital and N20.80billion for MDGs under capital supplementation. IPPIS capital (N5billion) was completely removed from the Appropriation Bill, while Capital development of National Institute for Legislative Studies was increased by N4billion (from N2billion to N6billion), and N1billion was provisioned for a new project, National Assembly Clinic
· The provision of N20.78billion for SURE-P capital spending was retained.