By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Following the passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly last week, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered all the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to thoroughly review the budget before it is sent to him for assent.
A source in the presidency informed THISDAY yesterday that Buhari gave the directive just before the Easter break in order to ascertain if any significant amendments were made by the legislature that are inconsistent with the spending plan of the executive arm of government.
He said: “We hope to get the budget this week from the legislature immediately after the Easter holiday. But before the president assents to it, he has directed that it should be sent to all the MDAs to double check it to ensure that there were no significant amendments or errors that could adversely affect the implementation of the budget.
“It is only when this is done and the president is satisfied that there were no material alterations that are not consistent with the objectives of this administration, then he would assent to it.”
The presidency official said that the process of reviewing the budget should not take more than a week or two, following which Buhari would assent to the bill.
“However, if there are significant alterations, it may have to be sent back to the National Assembly until a compromise is reached on what should be passed in the budget,” he explained.
The National Assembly last Wednesday passed a record budget of N6.060 trillion, the first that will be implemented from scratch by the Muhammadu Buhari administration, thus laying to rest the numerous controversies that trailed its presentation by the president last December.
The budget that was passed by the legislature, however, was slashed by N17 billion from the N6.077 trillion initially proposed by the executive.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, in presenting the budget report to the Senate, said never in the history of the National Assembly, since 1999, has an annual budget witnessed more cuts as was the case with this year’s budget.
He blamed the budgetary cuts on the country’s economic challenges, explaining that cuts were made in recurrent spending, the budget deficit and the federal government’s borrowing plan.
The budget as passed provided N2.646 trillion for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure; N1.587 trillion for capital expenditure; N351.3 trillion for statutory transfers; Nl.475 trillion for debt service and N500 billion for social intervention.
The budget was also predicated on an oil benchmark of $38 dollars per barrel, oil production volume of 2.2 million per day, exchange rate of N197 to $1, a N2.204 trillion fiscal deficit, and a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 2.14 per cent.
Under the capital spending plan, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing got the lion share of N422. 9 billion, this is followed by the Ministry of Transportation with N188.6 billion.
Other allocations included N130.8 billion to the Ministry of Defence; N61.7 billion to the Ministry of Interior; N46.1 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture, and N35.4 billion to the Ministry of Education.
Under recurrent expenditure, the Ministry of Interior got the highest allocation of N451.9 billion, followed by education with N367.7 billion. Other notable allocations are N312 billion to defence and N221.4 billion to health.