L-R; President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of State, Agriculture, Mr Heineken Lokpobir, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma and Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed during Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting at the Council Chamber Presidential Villa. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

After missing the September target for the presentation of the 2017 budget to the National Assembly, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) wednesday finally approved the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who briefed State House correspondents after wednesday’s FEC meeting, said that the budget details would be revealed when the president presents the bill to the National Assembly, but did not give a date for its submission.

He said: “With regard to the date, the president will be communicating to the National Assembly and, of course, it will be at the National Assembly’s discretion ultimately.

“The president will write to them and after they confirm, then the president can come to address them.”

On the implementation of the 2016 budget, he said that even though it had been affected by revenue constraints, the government was able to release N800 billion for capital projects and had also met 100 per cent of personnel costs.

“With respect to implementation of 2016, as you are aware, we had revenue constraints. Nevertheless, as we have been briefing regularly, we are up to date with personnel costs. We have paid salaries up to date,” Udoma stated.

The minister also said that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) sent to the National Assembly ahead of the presentation of the 2017 budget was not bereft of information, insisting that it was well prepared.

The Senate had picked holes in the document sent to the National Assembly October 4, 2016, alleging that it did not contain the details of the fiscal proposals and described it as “empty” and not worth consideration.

But Udoma disagreed with the Senate, saying that the MTEF was prepared by experienced experts after extensive consultations.

He, however, admitted that the estimates contained in the document at the time it was submitted, were bound to change because of the changes in the exchange rate.

He said: “The MTEF was a very well prepared document after extensive consultations. We consulted the private sector and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), etc.

“But the assumptions of that MTEF were assumptions which were true and correct as of the time it was prepared in August.

“Naturally, every time you improve on your assumptions based on the latest estimates. For instance, one of the issues they raised was about the exchange rate; that we used $290 as the exchange rate, and that was the exchange rate of the time.

“So, you only use the exchange rate that is valid at that time. Naturally, by now, you will change that.

“As such, whenever we appear before the National Assembly, we will engage them and take them one by one through each item.

“But that MTEF was extremely well prepared, consistent with the best possible methods of preparation by people who are very experienced in preparing the document.”

Also speaking, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said FEC approved the business case for the concession and development of the Ikere gorge dam in Oyo State to generate 6 megawatts (MW) of hydro-powered electricity, the Bakolori dam in Zamfara for 3.2MW, Jibiya dam in Katsina for 4MW, Zobe dam in Katsina for 0.29MW (290 kilowatts), Kampe Omi in Kogi for 2MW and the Doma dam in Nasarawa for 1MW of electricity.

This, he said, was in furtherance of the administration’s incremental power initiative and rural electrification initiative.

“Not only do these projects further our quest for incremental energy, wherever there is legitimate opportunity, they further our quest for renewable energy as well, because hydro electricity is clean energy,” Fashola explained.

He said council also approved the commencement of the Federal Secretariat complex in Ekiti State and the furnishing of the one in Gombe State.

Fashola explained that even though the Ekiti project was conceived in the year 2000, funding was not provided for it.