After six months, both chambers of the National Assembly yesterday passed the sum of N9.12 trillion as the total budget figure for the 2018 fiscal year, which is N508 billion higher than the N8.612 initially proposed by the executive arm.
The oil benchmark was pegged at $51 per barrel of oil. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives immediately constituted a conference committee led by the chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Bala Mustapha Dawaki to meet with the Senate and harmonise their differences
The sectoral increment shows that Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had its budget increased by N106.5 billion, followed by security with N72 billion, health N57.52 billion, NDDC N44.20 billion. Others include education, N15.7 billion, judiciary N10 billion. The Senate, however, insisted that the executive must ensure that monies being spent on fuel subsidy were captured in the budget through supplementary appropriation.
The House, in its version of the budget, inserted two provisions, which were not included in the Senate’s version. The House and Senate differed where it provided that the executive must not obtain any loan without National Assembly’s approval and there should be no extra budgetary spending. Both are not found in the Senate version.
Speaking on the budget shortly after its passage, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said that there was need for the executive to capture subsidy in the budget, to ensure transparency in the process of running affairs of government. He also harped on the need for cooperation and collaboration between the Executive and the National Assembly in the area of budget preparation to facilitate early passage. Saraki commended the National Assembly for allocating one per cent of the total budget to the primary healthcare, saying it would go a long way to improve on the efficiency and effectiveness of the sector.
He said: “In the area that we could not address, which is the issue of fuel subsidy, I want to make an appeal again that the Executive needs to look into this for the interest of transparency where an expenditure close to over N1 trillion must be captured in the budget.
And when the supplementary (budget) comes, the Execu tive should do something about this area. It’s an important issue we must address. “In doing that, we must appreciate now that the crude oil price is close to $80 (per barrel), a lot of Nigerians are expecting to see our Excess Crude Account to be on the rise, but if money is being used for subsidy, at the end of the day, we will have it difficult to explain. That is why it is important that we capture this subsidy into the budget.
“A lot has been said on the area of how we would have passed the budget earlier; there is still room for improvement in the area of cooperation and collaboration between the Executive and the Legislature. As you all know, at least 50% of capital expenditure of ministries, did not come for their budget defence up to February.
This is an area we must work on as the two arms of government.” On the other hand, the Upper Chamber absolved the parliament of all blames in the delayed passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill. It said that contrary to the public perception that the lawmakers deliberately slowed down the budget process to spite the executive; it was refusal by some ministers and heads of parastatals to come before the parliament and defend their budget proposals that resulted in the delay.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje (APC/ Gombe), who spoke at a press briefing shortly after the budget report was considered and passed at plenary, said the executive should endeavour to present the budget estimates early enough and encourage the heads of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) to come forward and defend the budget estimates of their respective ministries and agencies.
According to Goje, a number of ministers failed to defend their budget even after the appeals from the parliament and the presidential intervention ordering them to do the needful on the matter. He explained that in spite of the delay in the passage of the budget, there was no negative impact on the economy as being speculated in some circles because the 2017 budget had not elapsed.
“There is no budget vacuum. The 2017 Appropriation Act has not elapsed because it was meant to last 12 calendar months and not from January to December. In fact, the 2017 budget will elapse on June 12, 2018. Even when the new budget is signed into law, it will also run for 12 months. Clause 11 of the budget states that the budget will run for 12 months,” he said.
On the increase of the budget from N8.6 trillion to N9.1 trillion, Goje explained that it was due to the increase in the oil price benchmark from $45 to $51, an increase of $6. According to him, the change was an arbitrary decision of the parliament, but was made after due consultation with the executive arm of government.
He further explained that the additional revenue from the increase in the oil price projection had been deployed to specific areas including Security, Health, Judiciary, Power, Works and Housing. Goje said that for the first time, the parliament has set aside one per cent of the budget to fund the health sector in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The details of budget passed by both chambers shows that critical infrastructural projects such as power, works and housing, as well as Transportation got the highest capital allocation out of total sum of N2.873 trillion in the 2018 budget, which was laid before the National Assembly. According to the document, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing gets the highest allocation of N682.309 billion, followed by Transportation to the tune of N251.420 billion; N157.715 for Defence; N149.198 for Agriculture and Rural Development; N147.2 billion for Water Resources and N102.907 for Education while N150 billion was allotted for Special Intervention Programme.
The breakdown further showed that National Assembly gets N139.5 billion; National Judicial Council (NJC) gets N110 billion as against the sum of N100 billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari. Similarly, part payment to NDDC’s outstanding liabilities on Federal Government gets N33.98 billion while NNDC gets N81.883 billion Universal Basic Education gets N109.064 billion; Independent National Electoral Commission gets N45.5 billion; National Human Rights Commission gets N3.014 billion, while Public Complaint Commission gets N7.48 billion.
Out of the total sum of N2.014 trillion allotted to debt serving, the sum of N1.760 billion is for domestic debts while N254.080 billion is for foreign debts and additional sum of N190 billion is for sinking fund to retire matured loans. From the total sum of N3.513 trillion approved for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, Ministry of Interior gets the highest allocation of N501.610 billion, followed by N439.256 billion for education; N419 billion for Defence; N269.965 billion for Health; N110.842 billion for Youth and Sports Development; N76.025 for office of the National Security Adviser; N63.535 billion for Petroleum Resources and N63.114 billion for Foreign Affairs.