President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday accused the National Assembly of slashing N347 billion from the allocations to 4,700 projects in the 2018 budget submitted to the parliament for consideration and introducing 6,403 projects, amounting to N578 billion.
The President said this in his speech at the signing into law of the 2018 Appropriation Bill at the State House, Abuja.
“I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented. The logic behind the constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that, it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects. Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me,” the President said about the budget that was passed by the National Assembly.
Noting that “many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation”, Buhari said “some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualised, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute.”
He also noted that many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly were added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.
“As it is, some of these projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened”, he said.
In his speech, Buhari cited some of the critical projects from which cuts were made.
The President said: “The provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of 11.5 billion Naira.
“Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of 7.5 billion Naira.
“The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by 3.9 billion Naira from 4 billion Naira to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
“The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of 7.45 billion Naira.
“The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by 3 billion Naira at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.
“The provision of the federal Government’s Housing programme was cut by 8.7 billion Naira.
“At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of 5 billion Naira was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
“The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of 14.5 billion Naira.
“The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira which will further delay the completion of this critical project.
“The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from 5 billion Naira to 3.4 billion Naira.”
He specifically noted that about seventy new road projects had been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
He said In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the ministry’s vote.
“Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly”, he said
Buhari said another area of concern was the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96 billion.
He said most of these increases were for recurrent expenditure at a time government was trying to keep down the cost of governance.
“An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by 14.5 billion Naira, from 125 billion Naira to 139.5 billion Naira without any discussion with the Executive,” he added.
He however said notwithstanding his observations, he had decided to sign the budget “in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.”
President Buhari said it was his intention to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary/amendment budget.
He said he hopes the National Assembly would be able to expeditiously consider it when the parliament receives the bill from the Executive.