While signing the budget at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Buhari said “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 N347bn in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578bn,” the president said.
He said many of the projects cut were critical “and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.”
He said many of the projects introduced by the National Assembly had been added to the budgets of MDAs with no consideration for 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 as follows:
a. 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 N11.5bn.
b. Some ongoing projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of N7.5bn.
c. Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by N3.9bn from N4bn to N100m.
d. 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 N7.45bn.
e. Security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by N3bn at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.
f. The provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme was cut by N8.7 bn.
g. A total of N5bn was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
h. The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks were cut by a total of N14.5bn.
i. Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2bn to N500m which will delay the completion of the project.
j. Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State was cut from N5bn to N3.4bn.
k. About 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. To make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut.
The president said another area of concern was the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96bn, adding that “Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance.”
The budget of the National Assembly has also increased by N14.5bn, from N125bn to N139.5bn “without any discussion with the executive.”
He said despite the observations, he signed the budget in order not to further slowdown the recovery of the economy which, had been affected by the delay in passing the budget.
He, however, said he intends to remedy some of the most critical issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which he hoped the National Assembly would expeditiously consider.
The president said in order to achieve the laudable objectives of the 2018 budget, his government would work very hard to generate the revenues required to finance its projects and programmes.
He also stated that being a deficit budget, the borrowing plan would be forwarded to the National Assembly shortly.
He said when he submitted the 2018 budget proposals on November 17, 2017, he had hoped that the usual legislative review process would be quick so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year.
NASS: Why we made changes
The National Assembly is not worried by the concerns raised by President Muhammadu Buhari over changes it made to the 2018 budget, Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Na’Allah, has said.
He was fielding questions from State House correspondents after the president assented to the Appropriation Bill.
Asked if the National Assembly was worried about the president’s concerns, Na’Allah responded: “No, we are not worried. The job of parliamentarians is a very difficult one. The way the budget came, if we had allowed it to go that way, we would have been in trouble with those who elected us.
“You have to balance between the six-geo political zones. It is the balancing efforts by the National Assembly that led to those observations and happily enough.”
He said the National Assembly would quickly deal with the supplementary budget which Buhari promised to send, but added that since the president had not sent it, he could not give a timeline for its treatment.
Na’Allah admitted that Buhari was right about the delay in passing the budget, noting however that “if you remember, the president had to order some MDAs to appear before the Assembly for the purpose of defending their budgets. It’s a very delicate issue.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara were absent at the budget signing.
The chief whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, said as an individual and a member of the House of Representatives, “I want to believe that the president is at liberty to raise some of these observations.”
Doguwa said the most important thing was that the budget had been signed and had become a law of the federation.
He said the House of Representatives expected “the executive to now implement the law to the letter.”
He said should Buhari bring a supplementary budget, the House would “also at the same time be at liberty to look at the president’s concerns and those things he wants us to now review.”
“Some of us that are in the APC, and even a lot of members that are in opposition are quite aware of the enormous responsibility on the shoulders of Mr President. Now is the right time to cooperate with Mr President and give him what he desires as the leader of the government.”
On the delay in passing the budget, he said the legislature could not be expected to rubber-stamp it.