N’Assembly Passes 2020 Budget, Increases Estimates by N264bn

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  • We will study the differentials, says presidency
  • Analysts upbeat on implementation

 

Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze, Chris Uba in Lagos

The National Assembly Thursday passed the 2020 budget submitted to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, increasing his N10.33 trillion estimates by N264 billion to arrive at N10.59 trillion.

The two chambers of the assembly at separate sittings considered, clause by clause, the report submitted by their Appropriation Committees before finally passing the budget.

The passed estimates, which saw the annual statutory allocation to the National Assembly being jacked up from N125 billion to N128 billion, would thereafter be transmitted to the president for his assent before the end of December.

The passage of the budget is in keeping with the assembly’s major legislative agenda of returning the country’s budget cycle to a more predictable one as well as stabilising the economy.

The passage of the annual 2020 budget before the end of the 2019 fiscal year by the legislature signals the country’s return to a January-December budget cycle after decades of its disruption.

A breakdown of the N10.594 trillion approved for the 2020 fiscal year shows that N560,470,827,235 is for statutory transfers, N2,725,498,930,000 for Debt Service; N4,842,974,600,640 for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure; and N2,465,418,006,955 for Contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2020 with the budget having a fiscal deficit of N2.2 trillion and Deficit/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 1.52 per cent.

The budget is predicated on crude oil production of 2.18mbpd as proposed by the Executive; Oil Price benchmark of 57 dollar per barrel as against US$55 proposed by the Executive; Exchange Rate of N305 to US$1; Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Inflation Rate of 2.93 percent and 10.81 per cent respectively.

Capital Expenditure for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) for the 2020 fiscal year are: Ministry of Defence N116,181,290,730; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N7,608,141,474; Ministry of Information and Culture, N7,555,803,233; Ministry of Interior, N34,035,825,302; Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, N1,722,796,040; Ministry of Police Affairs, N15,959,986,864; Ministry of Communication Technology, N5,919,002,554; and Office of the National Security Adviser, N27,418,469,323.

Others allocations include: Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N25,188,940,930; Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, N2,158,620,395; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, N124,395,096,917; Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, N4,976,199,925; Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, N38,583,331,761; Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, N24,445,756,678; Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, N62,882,531,566; Federal Ministry of Transport, N121,366,932,571; and Federal Ministry of Aviation, N52,061,533,122.

Also, for the 2020 fiscal year, the Ministry of Power has an allocation of N129,082,499,363; Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N3,337,444,887; Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, N10,431,563,177; Ministry of Works and Housing, N315,563,564,269; Ministry of Water Resources, N91,679,927,042; Ministry of Justice, N3,853,600,220; Federal Capital Territory Administration, N62,407,154,360; and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, N23,120,350,399.
Others include: Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, N3,735,486,210; Ministry of Women Affairs, N6,650,300,966; Federal Ministry of Education, N84,728,529,572; Ministry of Health, N59,909,430,837; Federal Ministry of Environment, N12,350,140,731; and Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, N61,085,146,003.

In his comments after the budget passage, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said: “When we came in, all of us approved our legislative agenda, and one of the key pillars of this agenda is to take back our budget cycle from the very undesirable cycle that can not be defined to something that can be defined and bought into by our country and business partners living in and outside the country.

“Today, we have been able to achieve this. It means where there is will, there is always a way. This is something that we have been able to achieve together with the House of Representatives.

“I must give members of the Ninth National Assembly the credit, because we thought it was going to be impossible.”
He also commended the executive arm of government for buying in into the legislature’s desire, saying it was not easy for the it to present its estimates before the end of September.

“I know they (Executive) worked day and night. So, it was presented to us on the 8th of October. We have been able to work harmoniously. There is no way we can achieve this without all of us working together.

“I want to commend our colleagues from the opposition. This Senate from the beginning, we said, will be bi-partisan. You have given us all the support that we require, and indeed, this is the way it should be,” Lawan added.

He also noted that with the recent passage of landmark legislations such as the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Act, Finance Bills and Public Procurement Bills by the National Assembly, the executive arm of government is sufficiently empowered to ensure the successful implementation of the 2020 budget.

The House of Representatives also passed the sum of ₦10.59 trillion as the total budget for 2020 fiscal year.
The approved budget according to Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution is expected to run for a course of 12 months starting January 1, 2020 if assented to by the president.

At the plenary presided by the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the House passed the same estimates.
Specifically, the statutory transfers it approved included; National Judicial Council ₦110,000,000,000; Niger-Delta Development Commission ₦80,881,610,074; Universal Basic Education; ₦111,789,185,895; National Assembly ₦128,000,000,000; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), ₦40,000,000,000; North East Development Commission ₦38,101,783,432; Basic Health Care Fund ₦44,498,247,834, among others.

The House, however, added a corrigendum to the approved budget which states that, “any error in the schedule to this Act that may hinder the implementation of projects and programmes in MDAs may be corrected through a corrigendum issued by the National Assembly: provided that the total sum for the project or programme is not affected.”

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the House, Hon. Ben Kalu, while briefing journalists after the plenary yesterday said that the ability of the National Assembly to pass the budget on time showed that from now on, Nigerians would believe that the ninth assembly is working the talk especially after returning the country to January to December budget cycle.

According to him, “The ball is no longer in our court, the ball is now in the court of the executive to implement what we have passed today (yesterday).”

Asked why the budget was increased, Kalu noted that the increase in the budget was to show that the National Assembly was not a rubber stamp as some Nigerians believed, adding that where the House thought the money budgetted was not enough, it was increased and was equally reduced where necessary.

He added that the analysis and the increment done was as a result of the interaction the lawmakers had with various MDAs during the budget defence.

On the transmission of the budget, Kalu noted that while there was no time frame for the transmission of the budget passed by the House, he assured that the House would follow up with the Clerk to ensure that nothing slows the wheel of the progress the House had started.

Meanwhile, the Presidency has reacted to the passage of the 2020 budget by the National Assembly saying it will properly study the document.

Reacting to the budget passage, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare, told THISDAY that he required some time to get details of the passed budget “because I have been out of National Assembly premises all day.”

The Presidential Liaison Officer promised to study the budget after which he would comment on the matter.
He said: “I’m aware the budget was laid at plenary on Wednesday and learnt that it has been passed on Thursday but I don’t have the details of the differential in what the president proposed and what was passed.
“I will need to carefully study the final budget passage. So, for now I won’t be able to talk about it but definitely we will react to the issue very shortly.”

APC Commends Early Passage

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has commended the National Assembly over the early passage of the 2020 budget.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement issued yesterday described it as another solid milestone by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration.

He said that Nigerians would be the ultimate beneficiaries of the early budget passage as it would guarantee full implementation of many of the economic, infrastructural, social investments and other developmental programmes contained in the budget.

Issa-Onilu said: “The party commends both chambers of the National Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives, for putting National Interest before any other interest, a clean departure from the eighth National Assembly, which used filibustering, political manipulation and other devious practices in their failed attempt to sabotage the APC government.”

The party also commended the president for showing leadership in the prompt submission of the 2020 budget proposals and his clear directive to heads of MDAs to suspend international travels to defend their respective budgets and provide the required cooperation to the National Assembly in order to ensure timely passage of the 2020 budget.
He stressed that the early budget passage would allow for proper and better planning for both the government and the private sector.

Issa-Onilu said that the entire financial architecture of the country would benefit from it, which he said included; project financing, contract execution timeline, project implementation and performance monitoring.
He stressed that it would also make public procurement predictable, business climate stable, and give confidence to investors.

The party therefore urged the executive and legislature to take full advantage of this new dawn of cordial relations, stressing that it would translate to better governance for the benefit of Nigerians.

Analysts Upbeat on Implementation

Analysts yesterday expressed optimism that the early passage would lead to an improved budget performance.
The analysts, who spoke in separate interviews with THISDAY, said the passage of the annual budget before the end of the 2019 fiscal year by the legislature signalled the country’s return to a January – December budget cycle after decades of its disruption.

The Director of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, commended the timely passage of the budget, even as he expressed optimism that it will impact positively on implementation.

He said: “The timely passage of the budget by the Senate is laudable. It will impact positively on budget implementation and the timely delivery of the expected outcomes from the budget. Secondly, it will reduce the uncertainty which in the past has been experienced by the stakeholders impacted directly by the budget.
“Thirdly, it makes planning easier for relevant private sector and public sector stakeholders in the budget process. It is hoped that the return to January-December budget cycle will be sustained.”

Also, a Professor of Finance at the University of Lagos, Dr. Wilifred Iyiegbuniwe, described the early passage of the budget as a good development, “because budget is meant for a specified period. And it does not make sense to pass it when the period it is meant for has virtually run out.

“The return of January-December budget circle will give the ministries, department and agencies enough time to implement the budget. It would also help to improve the implementation of capital budgets. So, the early passage is a good development and a step in the right direction.”

Iyiegbuniwe, however, said the early passage was not a guarantee that the budget would be adequately implemented as there are other variables that could hinder effective implementation of a budget.
These, according to him, include corruption and unavailability of fund, among others.

“Early passage is not the only issue. Corruption is there and can make nonsense of the whole process of implementation of a budget. And we are all aware that corruption is still very much around us. However, the early passage has deprived the executive arm any excuse that they do not have enough time due to delayed passage. That excuse is gone for now,” he said.

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of BIC Consultancy Services Limited, Dr. Boniface Chizea, said the early passage of the budget meant that Nigeria was re-aligning its budget period to January-December calendar months, which is the practice in most of the developed world.

Chizea noted that the current development would allow the executive enough time to implement the budget and enable them also to improve on the implementation of the capital budget whose poor implementation accounted for the under developed nature of our economy.

“It will be important, having broken the jinx of late passage of the appropriation bill, for the country to return back to the concept of rolling plan in the implementation of capital budgets captured in an annual budget, which could not be completely executed in a single budget year.”

He also said that the variation in the budget sum would not be an issue as long as it did not mutilate the proposal submitted by the president.