President Goodluck Jonathan
By Onwuka Nzeshi andDele Ogbodo
President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday formally requested the National Assembly to approve N161,617,364,911, which will be built into the 2012 supplementary budgetary framework, to settle outstanding fuel subsidy claims.
Making the disclosure during the plenary session in the upper chamber, Senate President David Mark said the president through a letter to the legislature had reminded the National Assembly that a provision of N888.1 billion was made to offset fuel subsidy claims in the 2012 budget.
However, the president’s letter added, “Following the forensic audit carried out by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the presidency, it had been established that provision for fuel subsidy payment in 2012 was underestimated.”
The president’s request for approval of a supplementary budget coincided with a directive by the House of Representatives to its Committees on Finance and Appropriation that they compile a comprehensive report on the Federal Government’s revenue, expenditure and any unforeseen savings in the course of implementation of the 2012 budget.
The president’s letter further disclosed that N880,264,234 683.61 had been paid out of the N888.1 billion appropriated in the budget, leaving a balance of N7,735,756,316.39.
The president explained that in order to accommodate the outstanding arrears resulting from the forensic audit exercise for the remaining part of 2012, an additional N161,617,364,911 over what was programmed in the 2012 framework would be required.
While underscoring the need for an expeditious approval from Senate, the president’s request read: “Given the need to maintain a steady flow of petroleum products, especially in the run up to the festive season, it is my hope that the distinguished Senators will kindly accord this request their traditional expeditious consideration for approval.”
In a related development, the House of Representatives yesterday directed its Committees on Finance and Appropriation to compile and present a comprehensive report on the revenues, expenditures, and any unforeseen savings in the implementation of the 2012 budget.
The report, which is expected to be submitted in one week, is meant to serve as a panacea for the issue of outstanding capital releases in the 2012 Appropriation Act and achieve full implementation of the budget.
The resolution to conduct a fresh audit into the budget came on the heels of a motion sponsored by Hon. Abdulrahman Terab in which the lawmaker expressed concern that the revenue receipts so far have exceeded their projections for the 2012 fiscal year.
Despite this, he said, the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have not received funding commensurate with the revenue profile.
Terab alleged that in the fourth quarter, capital releases made to MDAs have been inadequate as only about 30 per cent of the allocated funds were actually released to the MDAs.
The lawmaker also said that various sums of money saved from recovery exercises, non-oil excess revenues, and the 2012 unspent revenues were neither captured in the 2013 appropriation bill nor were they provided as opening balances in the 2013 expenditure accounts.
He expressed concern that most, if not all, capital projects captured in the 2012 Appropriation Act would soon be abandoned, as the fiscal year winds down in the next two weeks.
“This will further contribute to the huge pile of abandoned projects and increase our infrastructure deficit which is almost insurmountable. This also means that our 2012 growth projections will be completely eroded and difficult to justify.
“I am further worried that if this House does not come to the rescue of the 2012 budget, the dream of Nigeria becoming one of the 20 great economies by the year 2020 would no longer be attained because we have consistently missed targets,” he said.
“We are aware that Nigeria has an infrastructure deficit of over N4 trillion and a very high unemployment rate of over 70 per cent but one is concerned that Nigeria's budget-based growth indices have in the recent past laid more emphasis on foreign influenced economic models based on the Gross National Product (GNP), rather than Human Development Index (HDI) and Infrastructure Growth Index (IGI), which impact more on the internal factors that reduce poverty, create jobs and encourage industrial growth,” he added.