•‘Increment by National Assembly ’ll make implementation difficult’
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday signed the 2017 Appropriation Bill into law.
President Muhammadu Buhari presented in December 2016 a N7.28 trillion estimate, which was raised to N7.44 trillion by the lawmakers.
The Budget includes N1.84 trillion for debt servicing, N177.4 billion for sinking fund, N2.97 trillion for recurrent expenditure (non-debt) and N2.177 trillion for capital expenditure.
Osinbajo said the budget would deliver positive economic growth and prosperity as it would be implemented in line with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The acting president said the increment by the National Assembly would make it difficult for the executive to implement some of the projects. He however said virement would be sent to the legislature to augment what would be needed to complete critical projects.
Such critical projects, he said included the railway standard gauge projects, the Mambilla Power Project, the Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway.
He said efforts would be made to send next year’s budget proposal to the National Assembly by October so that it could be passed this year in order to return to the January – December budget cycle.
Osinbajo said the process for completing this year’s budget was smoother than that of 2016.
He said: “The process of preparing and processing this Bill was much smoother than the 2016 Appropriations Bill. On the executive side, there were no allegations of errors, or mistakes, and there was a significant improvement in the quality of the preparation, as well as the presentation.
“I wish to commend the Ministry of Budget and Planning for such a remarkable improvement over a single budget cycle. On the side of the National Assembly, I wish to commend the collaborative spirit of the engagements our MDAs had with their various committees, and with the leadership, during the budget defence sessions. There were far fewer reported cases of acrimony, or hostile wrangling this year, than in the past.
“From the reports we received, the sessions were generally conducted in a friendly atmosphere. There is no doubt that our democracy is maturing.
“However, the final presentation and the signing of the budget has been considerably delayed. This was largely due to disagreements we had about the changes introduced to our 2017 Budget proposals by the National Assembly.
“The executive took the view that the changes fundamentally affected some of our priority programmes and would make implementation extremely difficult and, in some cases, impossible.
“I must say that the entire leadership of the National Assembly, led by the Senate President and the Speaker, adopted a commendably patriotic and statesmanlike approach to our engagements on resolving these critical issues.
“In sum, the engagements yielded acceptable results . The most important being that the leadership of the National Assembly has given us a commitment that the National Assembly will re-instate the budgetary allocations for all the important executive projects, such as the railway standard gauge projects, the Mambilla Power Project, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway etc. which they had reduced to fund some of the new projects they introduced.
“This re-instatement will be by way of an application for virement by the Executive which they have agreed will be expeditiously considered and approved by the National Assembly.
“It is as a result of that understanding and the outcome of our detailed engagements that we feel able to sign the 2017 Appropriations Bill into law today.
“I am also pleased to mention that, in our discussions with the leadership of the National Assembly, we have jointly resolved to return to a predictable January to December fiscal year.
“It is a particularly important development because this accords with the financial year of most private sector companies, underscoring the crucial relationship between government and the private sector.
“Therefore, on the understanding that we will be submitting the 2018 Budget to the National Assembly by October 2017, the leadership of the National Assembly has committed to working towards the passage of the 2018 Budget into law before the end of 2017.
“The 2017 Budget, which I have signed into law today, is christened “Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth” and reflects our commitment to ensure strong linkage between the medium-term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) recently launched by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and the annual budgets.” he added
The 2017 Budget, he said, is also designed to bring the Nigerian economy out of recession onto a path of sustainable and inclusive growth.”
Osinabjo said: “The budget has a revenue projection of N5.08 trillion and an aggregate expenditure of N7.44 trillion. The projected fiscal deficit of N2.36 trillion is to be financed largely by borrowing.”
To the Acting President, there is no cause for alarm over public debts.
He said: “Let me assure those who have expressed concern about the growing public debt that we are taking several actions to grow government revenues as well as plug revenue leakages. This is because, notwithstanding the fact that our borrowings are still within sustainability limits, we are determined, in the medium term, to reduce our reliance on borrowings to finance our expenditures.”
Stressing that the Nigerian economy is already signalling a gradual recovery, Osinabjo said that growth was already headed towards positive territory.
According to him, the first quarter GDP, at -0.52% compares favourably with -2.06% in the first quarter of 2016.
Inflation, he said, is declining, down to 17.24% from 18.74% as at May 2016.
He added “Our external reserves are now US$30.28 billion as at June 8, 2017 up from US$26.59 billion as at May 31, 2016.
“We are also gradually instilling confidence in our exchange rate regime. This improvement in GDP growth and other macro-economic indicators is largely attributable to our strategic implementation of the 2016 Budget as well as stronger macroeconomic management and policy coordination.
“I am confident that the 2017 Budget will deliver positive economic growth and prosperity – one that is self-sustaining and inclusive. In this regard, the 2017 budget will be implemented in line with our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“Over the 2017-2020 plan period, we are focusing on five (5) key execution priorities, namely: *Stabilizing the macroeconomic environment; *Agriculture and Food security; *Energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products; *Improved transportation infrastructure; and *Industrialization through support for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs).”
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan and Senator Danjuma Goje, among others, witnessed the ceremony.
There were also Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters (Senate), Ita Enang.
Before the ceremony, a statement by Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, said it was in the interest of the nation for Osinbajo to accent to the budget.
He said: “Following the receipt of a full brief on the 2017 Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly, and to buttress the unity at the highest level of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that it is in the interest of the nation’s economy for the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to sign the Appropriation Bill into law.
“In a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed and addressed to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the President also said he was “pleased by the joint resolution that the Executive would submit next year’s budget proposals by October 2017 and the National Assembly will conclude the Appropriation process by December 2017, so that the country can return to a normal fiscal period from next year onwards.”