By Dipo Olowookere
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday accused the National Assembly of padding the 2018 budget to the tune of N578 billion.
Speaking at the signing of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, Mr Buhari said the parliament specifically introduced new 6,403 projects into the budget, removing the over 4000 projects he had proposed to do this year.
According to him, the projects removed or had its allocation cut by the legislative arm of government were very critical to the economy.
Mr Buhari described this move by the National Assembly as unfortunate, further accusing them of increasing their allocation for the year.
“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 conceptualized, designed and cost 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.
“Such examples of projects from which cuts were made are the provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part 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 were cut by an aggregate of N11.5 billion.
“Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of N7.5 billion.
“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 will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
“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 N3 billion 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 N5 billion was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
“The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of N14.5 billion.
“The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2 billion 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 seventy (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 N125 billion to N139.5 billion without any discussion with the Executive.”
However, the President said despite 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.
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