BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – Less than 24 hours after passing the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law, strong signals have emerged that the National Assembly (NASS) is on another collision course with the Presidency over N9.12 trillion figure turned in by the legislators.
The Nigerian Senate had on Wednesday passed the 2018 Appropriation Bill of N9.12 trillion after about seven months of tinkering with the figures and projects proposed by the executive. This follows the consideration and adoption of the report by its Committee on Appropriation led by Senator Danjuma Goje.
Our usual reliable sources said there is subdued anger at what the Presidency called ‘brinkmanship and unnecessary overstretching’ of their powers by the lawmakers.
Also, an insider at the Budget Office of the Federation said by joggling and upping the figures as well as introducing new projects into the initial budget document presented to them by President Muhammadu Buhari, the NASS has again demonstrated its seeming resolve to stall effective budget implementation for year 2018.
According to the insider, “We are again set for the usual rigmarole and avoidable disputation associated with the passage and eventual signing into law of the budget for implementation. The worrying aspect is that with eyes on the 2019 general elections, continuous contestations between the executive and the legislative arms of government is not what the country needs at this moment.”
Hinting on claims that the lawmakers are looking for every opportunity to further their interest ahead of next year’s polls, the source said; “this obvious arm-twisting style of theirs is bound to fail as the President has consistently stayed with the argument that ‘lobbying’ the lawmakers to perform their constitutional responsibility of passing an implementable budget in a reasonable time should not be encouraged.”
“The fact that President Buhari is not disposed to anything that would encouraged public funds being frittered away and politicians drawing down on such resources to fund their 2019 electioneering campaigns will make it difficult for his administration to assent to the bill as passed by the legislators’, our source maintained
Already, as the Presidency awaits a clean copy of the passed bill from NASS, our source said a formidable team, comprising egg-heads from the Ministries of National Planning and Finance, the Budget Office, the Economic team; and the Presidential liaisons at the NASS, is on ground to examine the new figures as proposed by the lawmakers.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on November 7, 2017 presented the budget document to a joint session of the National Assembly.
However, similar to the version considered by the House of Representatives, the Senate’s document indicate an increase of N508 billion over the N8.6 trillion presented by Buhari to a new figure of N9,120, 334,988,225
On April 12, 2018, Senate President Bukola Saraki had mandated the Appropriation Committee to tidy up reports on the budget latest by April 13. Going by that mandate, both chambers initially pledged to pass the budget on April 24. However, the deadline was not met due to what insiders at the joint Committee on Appropriation described as ‘obvious human factors and logistics’.
Again, there were assurances that the budget would be passed in the first week of May, but the Senate repeatedly blamed Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government for the delay, accusing them of shunning appointments with the various standing committees to defend their budgets.
In laying the budget document before the National Assembly, President Buhari, had described it as a “Budget of Consolidation”, maintaining that projected expenditure would drive rapid economic recovery in the country.
The President had told the lawmakers that with a benchmark of 45 dollars per barrel at an exchange rate of N305 to a dollar in 2018, the budget would consolidate on the achievements of previous budgets to aggressively steer the economy on the path of steady growth.