President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, tackled the National Assembly over the distortions in the 2018 Budget, declaring that it will be difficult for his government to implement the fiscal document as passed by the parliament.
The President, who, however, signed the 2018 appropriation bill into law with serious reservations, said with the reduction of allocation by the lawmakers to critical projects, implementation of the fiscal document will be difficult, if not impossible.
The signed budget provides for aggregate expenditures of N9.12 trillion, which is 22.6 per cent higher than the 2017 appropriation.
The President, while signing the document at the presidential villa, said: “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 costed and will, therefore, be difficult to execute,” he stressed.
While Buhari presented a total figure of N8.6 trillion in November 2017, the lawmakers raised the budget by N500 billion to N9.12 trillion.
Speaking at the brief ceremony witnessed by other government officials, the President said: “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.”
He said the National Assembly did not give regard to the fact that it is the executive arm of government that knows the focus of its policies and how to approach them in delivering the dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
Buhari noted that many of the new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.
The President lamented that while the National Assembly reduced a total of N347 billion allocation in the budget for 4,700 critical projects as presented by the executive, the lawmakers, in turn, introduced 6,403 new projects of their own, amounting to N578 billion in the financial document.
“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,” the President said.
Buhari, who said he was compelled to append his signature to the document in the interest of Nigerians in order not to shut down the economy, explained that the desire of his administration was to return the country’s budgetary financial year to January-December annually.
“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.
“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,” he said.
He listed some of the projects affected by the budget reduction to include, the proposed provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as counterpart 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.
Others are the 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; proposed provision for rehabilitation and additional security measures for the United Nations building by the FCT, Abuja which, he said, was cut by N3.9 billion from N4 billion to N100 million.
Buhari said this will make it impossible for the Federal Government to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
The President also listed 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 as those affected in the budget reduction.
Others are the provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country, cut by N3 billion and the proposed provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme which was cut by N8.7 billion.
The President explained that a total of N5 billion was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment at a time when the administration was working with Labour to address compensation-related issues.