I Was Forced to Sign 2018 Budget to Save Nigeria’s Economy—Buhari

June 20, 2018
I Was Forced to Sign 2018 Budget to Save Nigeria's Economy—Buhari

By Dipo Olowookere

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday finally signed the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law six months after he presented it to the National Assembly.

Mr Buhari had submitted the 2018 budget to the parliament in November 2017, but it was eventually passed by the legislative arm of government in May 2018.

The delay in the passage of the bill had generated reactions from various quarters of the country because of the effect it had on the economy in general.

Today, the President signed the budget into law after receiving it from the National Assembly nearly a month ago.

During the briefing signing ceremony on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, President Buhari said he was not happy with the increment made to the budget estimate by the legislature.

Mr Buhari had presented a budget of N8.6 trillion, but the lawmakers increased it to N9.1 trillion, 22.6 percent higher than the 2017 budget.

Reacting to this in his speech today, the President said the executive was never consulted before this increment was made by the parliament.

The President said if not for the fact he did not want the nation’s economy to suffer, he would probably have not signed the budget into law today.

He accused the parliament of removing some critical projects the executive put in the budget to have positive effect on Nigerians.

“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,” the President said in his short speech.

According to him, “We intend to use the 2018 budget to consolidate the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 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 conceptualized, designed and cost and will therefore be difficult to execute.”

The President listed some of the critical projects cut by the legislature as “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 fulfil 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.”

In his conclusion, Mr Buhari thanked the “Ministers 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.”

He said, “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.”

Dipo Olowookere

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

Mr Olowookere can be reached via [email protected]

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