The federal government is concentrating its spending power on the power, works and housing sector in 2018 in a bid to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
This is an area that most Nigerians have criticised the current administration of having had little impact despite the huge figures that it has budgeted in the past. Yesterday, the National Assembly passed the 2018 budget of N9.120 trillion with an embedded fiscal deficit of N1.955 trillion or 1.73 percent to GDP.
The National Assembly also urged the Presidency to submit a supplementary budget to cover fuel subsidy and the purchase of super Tucano aircrafts from the US which has already been paid for.
The expected supplementary provision would take total expenditure for 2018 above N10 trillion, the highest in the country’s history. It could also easily double the projected budget deficit unless crude oil prices continue to rise from current levels.
Already, the N9.12 trillion budget represents an increase of N580 billion above the N8.612 trillion proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly on the 7th November, 2017.
The 2018 appropriation bill, the largest in the nation’s history, was premised on key revenue assumptions of oil price benchmark of $51 (an increase of $6 above the $45 proposed by the Presidency); but retains 2.3 million barrels per day and exchange rate of N305/$1USD.
On sectorial basis, critical sectors namely: Power, Works and Housing, Defence as well as Transportation got the highest capital allocation of N1.090 trillion out of total sum of N2.873 trillion in the 2018 budget which was laid before the National Assembly.
According to the documents seen by Business Day, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing gets the highest allocation of N682.31 billion, followed by Transportation to that tune of N251.42 billion; N157.72 billion for Defence; N149.20 billion for Agriculture and Rural Development; N147.2 billion for Water Resources and N102.91 billion for Education while N150 billion was allotted for capital Special Intervention programme.
Under the Statutory Transfer, National Assembly gets N139.5 billion; National Judicial Council (NJC) gets N110 billion as against the sum of N100 billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Part payment to NDDC outstanding liabilities on Federal Government gets N33.98 billion while NNDC gets N81.883 billion; Universal Basic Education gets N109.064 billion; Independent National Electoral Commission gets N45.5 billion; National Human Rights Commission gets N3.014 billion while Public Complaint Commission gets N7.48 billion.
Out of total sum of N2.014 trillion allotted to debt serving, the sum of N1.760 trillion is for domestic debts while N254.080 billion is for Foreign debts and additional sum of N190 billion is for sinking fund to retire matured loans.
From the total sum of N3.513 trillion approved for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, Federal Ministry of Interior gets the highest allocation of N501.61 billion, followed by N439.26 billion for education; N419 billion for Defence; N269.97 billion for Health; N110.84 billion for Youth and Sports Development; N76.03 billion for office of the National Security Adviser; N63.54 billion for Petroleum Resources and N63.114 billion for Foreign Affairs.
One of the major landmark sub-head approved by the National Assembly was the sum of N55.150 billion for the implementation of the National Health Act.
Additional sums of N33.981 billion was also approved for Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); N12 billion for the 12 newly established universities and N43.5 billion for completion of federal roads nationwide.
The two chambers had dissolved into Committee on Supply to do the clause-by-clause consideration of the budget.
Meanwhile, the Legislators urged President Buhari to send a Supplementary budget with the view to address financial issues bothering on fuel subsidy and the Super Tucano Aircraft.
Abdulrasak Namdas, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity who spoke at the post-Legislative week briefing, explained that $51 benchmark was jerked up as a result of increase in the price of crude oil at the international market.
Meanwhile, both chambers declined to accede to President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to approve the sum of $496 million for the procurement of Tucano Jets.
Buhari via a letter sent to the Senate and House of Representatives confirmed giving anticipatory approval for the payment of $496 million out of the $1 billion to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account.
Worried by the development, the lawmakers who accused the President of usurping the powers of the National Assembly as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), threatened to initiate Buhari’s impeachment.
Most of the lawmakers from the Lower Chamber also faulted the communication procedure adopted by the Presidency.
To this end, the leadership of the House mandated its Committee on Rules and Business to ascertain whether there was a precedence for such arbitrary approval in other climes.
In response to BusinessDay inquiry, Timothy Golu, chairman, House Committee on Budget and Research explained that the issue of Tucano Jets was not part of the deliberations of the House during the consideration of the N9.120 trillion budget which was approved.
He also noted that the proviso in the Appropriation bill stipulates that any request for such approval should come by way of Supplementary Budget, signalling the rejection of the President’s request.
On his part, Abdulrasak Namdas, chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, maintained that the request was dead on arrival as the Parliament opposed to any form of impunity.
Earlier, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Dajuma Goje, revealed that increase in the budget by N508 billion was done in consultation with the executive arm of government.
This, he said, was attributed to the increase in oil price benchmark, hence resolved to jerk up the benchmark from $45 per barrel to $51 per barrel. Analysts expressed concern that the 2018 budget is coming seven months to the end of the year and three months to the commencement of party primaries for the 2019 elections. The delay in implementation could negatively impact its performance.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA & OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja