• As unions task govt on projects monitoring, implementation
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja, Abimbola Akosile in Lagos and Victor Olakiitan in Ado-Ekiti
The federal government has declared that it never foreclosed the possibility of 100 per cent implementation of the 2016 budget, which was assented to on Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, who gave the assurance yesterday in a statement issued by his Media Adviser, Mr. Akpandem James, debunked some newspaper reports credited to him that full implementation of the 2016 budget had been ruled out.
“The federal government aims, and will be working, to achieve 100 per cent implementation of the 2016 budget in spite of the late signing of the 2016 Appropriation Bill. This clarification becomes necessary to clear the mis-representation by some newspapers that full implementation of the budget has been ruled out because of the late start,” the statement said.
According to the statement while responding to questions from State House correspondents on Friday, the minister had “conceded that the late approval might constrain full implementation of the budget.”
However, the statement added that Udoma had, at the same time noted that “the federal government intends to still try its best to achieve 100 per cent implementation.” At no time did he rule out the possibility of full implementation as indicated by one or two newspapers, the statement added.
Meanwhile, union leaders have urged the federal government to closely monitor the 34 priority projects for implementation in 2016 budget to ensure that they are well executed.
The union leaders in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday commended the Executive and Legislature for amicable settlement after months of haggling over the budget.
The N6.08 trillion budget is expected to stimulate the nation’s slowing economy, which took a hit as the price of crude oil, Nigeria’s main export, collapsed in the global market.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said the budget was long overdue, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure effective implementation of the budget.
Wabba urged the federal government to ensure that the 34 priority projects of the budget were executed according to the provisions in the budget. He said most of the budget passed before were not monitored properly.
“Before the signing, the federal government had outlined 34 projects and programmes, which would be accorded utmost priority to ensure optimal performance of the 2016 budget. These programmes should be monitored by all and sundry. This is the budget of change, so government should waste no time in commencing disbursement of funds,” he said.
Former National Public Relations Officer of PENGASSAN, Mr. Oluwaseyi Gambo, said “with the signing of the budget, the country should witness infrastructure development, employment and a dynamic economy. A budget is an inclination of what government wants to do.
“However, our economy is fragile and international dynamics like the rise or fall of oil price, dollar exchange rate, all have a corresponding immediate effect on us. We should pray that the funding matrix of the budget as highlighted by government is not derailed. Our economy seems to be controlled by unseen hands, because we have, for decades, paid lip service to building a robust economy with little reliance on petrol dollar. Now that we have a budget we expect to see projects, infrastructure development, employment, a dynamic economy devoid of past arrested development.
“We expect a general improvement in our standard of living, more money in the pocket and less strikes and civil unrest; businesses should pick up with the injection of N350 billion into the economy,’’ he said.
Gambo urged the government to ensure that all projects in the budget were implemented, adding that economic hardship was really affecting the generality of the people.
He also called on union leaders to be alive to their responsibility as watchdogs of their immediate environment by ensuring that there is no diversion of funds from specific items as stated in the budget.
The South-west Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Mr. Tokunbo Korodo, commended the government for signing the budget.
According to Korodo, all the ministries need to urgently spring into action because much is expected from the government after the passage of the budget.
Also, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State, Mr. Segun Osinkolu, has hailed the President for reaching truce with the National Assembly on the contentious areas of the 2016 budget.
Commending Buhari for assenting to the budget in spite of the initial snags, Osinkolu said the signing of the budget would spearhead the beginning of a real change in the system as promised by the President during his electioneering campaign in 2015.
In a chat with THISDAY in Ado Ekiti yesterday, the APC senatorial aspirant said the promise made by President Buhari to immediately inject a staggering sum of N350 billion into the economy within the next few days, would serve as a buffer to the suffocating economic conditions being experienced by Nigerians.
Osinkolu praised the presidency for being thorough with the budget draft sent to him by the National Assembly, saying this underscored the high level of capability of the Buhari-led government.