• Mull extension of 2017 budget to March 2018
From Fred Itua, Abuja
Another showdown is imminent between the Senate and the Executive as lawmakers, miffed by the low performance of the 2017 budget, especially the poor releases by the Ministry of Finance to fund capital projects, yesterday, threatened to suspend the consideration of the 2018 budget.
The looming standoff, it was gathered, may delay the consideration and passage of the 2018 budget by the Senate till March next year.
Strong indications to this first emerged on Monday, when the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Mustapha Baba Shehuri and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry (Power), Mr. Louis Edozien, were turned back by the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy.
The senators reaffirmed their position yesterday, when the budget defence of three ministries was also suspended. Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was asked to go, when he also appeared before Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe-led committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy.
Similarly, two committees, Health, headed by Senator Lanre Tejuoso and Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, headed by Mao Ohuabunwa, discontinued the budget defence of the Ministry of Health.
Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole and Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire were asked to return at another yet-to-be announced date to continue their budget defence.
Heads of agencies under the Ministry, who accompanied the two ministers, were also asked to go. No date was given to them on when to return.
Multiple sources told Daily Sun that the lawmakers would insist on the full implementation of the capital component of the 2017 budget before the 2018 Appropriation Bill will be considered and passed into law.
Lawmakers who took their turns to condemn the performance of the budget, at yesterday’s plenary, said some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), have only attained 15-20 per cent performance, despite assurances that improvements will be made.
They claimed that a number of agencies were yet to get releases to pay salaries and fund recurrent components of the 2017 budget, despite claims by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun that N750 billion had been released.
Although no official position was taken at the end of a long drawn debate on the performance of the 2017 budget, over 80 performance of lawmakers who spoke, suggested that the lifespan of the 2017 budget be extended till 31st of March, 2018.
They suggested that until the budget attains at least 60 per cent implementation, the 2018 budget should not be considered by the various standing committees of the Senate.
Soon after a closed-door session, where the poor performance of the 2017 budget was discussed, the Senate Deputy Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah raised a point of order. He cited Order 42 and 45 of the Senate Standing Rules.
He said plans to pass the 2018 budget before end of 2017 or early 2018, will not work. He said the current template of the budget would continue to pose serious challenges to the Federal Government.
Na’Allah who revealed that the template was developed and adopted during the military era called on his colleagues to extensively discuss the challenges bedeviling the budget and proffer solutions.
“I feel that there are certain aspects that the Senate has so many things to discuss. When we suspended the plenary for two weeks, the intention was to enable committee’s work. They are supposed to report progress in order to enable the Senate pass the budget before the end of the year or early next year.
“When we suspended plenary, it was with the idea that the committees will swing into action so we can have a tentative date to pass the budget. From what I have seen, we might run into troubled waters. If we have not appreciated what the problems are, it is important for Nigerians to come here and understand what the problem is.
“The template we are using will continue to create problems for us. It was created during the military era. The template cannot work in our country today. From reports we have had, it is obvious that we have problems. We need to know what the problems are. If we have a 2017 budget that has not been executed today and we are considering the 2018 budget, it means there is a problem.
“The president told us that the 2017 budget was going to achieve at least 60 per cent performance. Today, that has not happened. We need to lay this issue and discuss it. Let us put the facts before the Executive and show Nigerians the difficulties we are facing,” he stated.
Senator Barnabas Gemade, while contributing to the debate, suggested that the consideration of the 2018 budget be suspended. He also argued that the lifespan of the current 2017 budget be extended till end of March of 2018.
“This point of order raised is important because of what the public is waiting for. Our two weeks committee work should have led us to where we will lay the report and pass the budget. As was indicated, we need to appreciate the efforts of the executive who is trying to return the budget year from January to December.
“What we have seen is far from the 40 per cent capital project implementation we were told. In many MDAs, budget performance is hovering between 12 to 15 per cent. In early November, the borrowing plans were brought and we approved it. They said they were going to release more funds. As of now, we cannot say if that is true.
“In defending the budget, MDAs are supposed to bring their 2017 budget performance to committees. When you look at the budget proposals brought here, many things captured in the 2017 budget were not rolled over. Committees and MDAs need to do some work.
“We have to set a date for the implementation of the 2017 budget based on the borrowing plans we approved. I therefore propose that we set March 31st for the 2017 budget to be implemented before we can start working on the 2018 budget. We need to guide against abandonment of ongoing projects,” Gemade said.
Senator Solomon Adeola from Lagos State, was more forceful. He wondered why the Senate should consider and approve the 2018 budget when the performance of the 2017 budget was unknown. He proposed that the Minister of Finance be summoned to brief the Senate on the low performance of the budget and why her ministry wa s not releasing funds.
“How can we approve the 2018 budget without knowing the performance of 2017 budget? This is abnormal. From the recent budget defences, it is obvious that MDAs are not ready. Year-in-year-out, the budget performance is low. Last week, a minister was asked to excuse lawmakers because he did come prepared. He did not come with the necessary documents to defend the budget of his ministry.
“We need to show to Nigerians that the National Assembly is ready to approve the budget. Remember that the president, during the presentation of the 2018 budget, said the performance of the 2017 budget would attain at least 40 per cent. But that has not been done. I am suggesting that we invite the minister of finance to brief us on the performance of the 2017 budget. We need to be told.
“Remember how the executive submitted the MTEF and withdrew it again. It submitted it and withdrew it again. It shows the lack of seriousness on the part of economic managers of the country.”
Senator Matthew Urhoghide, who heads Public Accounts committee, suggested that the ongoing consideration of the 2018 budget, be put at bay.
“I want to say that the budget of 2018 is already bedeviled. For us to be able to determine the 2018, we need to see the performance of 2017. Many MDAs are complaining that what they are getting for recurrent expenditure is not even for them. More worrisome is the capital expenditure.
“Last week, the minister of finance announced that N750 billion had been released. If this money has been released, MDAs are yet to get this money. With the envelope budgeting they are doing, we do not know what has been given to MDAs. I want to say that every consideration about the 2018 budget should be put at bay. This executive is not serious. Let them tell us what they have done with the 2017 budget.
The budget presentation is an annual ritual that is not benefiting anybody,” he said.
Mohammed Hassan suggested that a small technical committee be set up by the Senate to come up with a standard format on how to handle the 2018 budget.
He said: “Many of us have been made to do the work of the executive.
We need to set up a small technical committee to come up with a
standard format on how to handle the 2018 budget. It is very important
to do that.”
FCT committee chairman, Senator Dino Melaye, described the 2018 budget
as a ‘boju boju’ document. He said the budget proposal was “garnished
He stated: “The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Muhammadu Buhari, said during the budget presentation that the 2017
budget will be rolled over. I took the 2017 budget and went through it
page by page. There is no relationship between the two documents. The
budget we received was a ‘boju boju’ budget. Why did we package a 2018
budget that was garnished with deception?”
“There is about N850 trillion with the CBN. There is an outstanding of
N1.5 trillion from collection of stamp duties with the CBN. This money
has not been remitted. Yet we took over N2 trillion. We need to
strengthen the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
“The NNPC was supposed to remit hundreds of billions of naira last
year. They did not do that. Yet, we say we are fighting corruption. We
cannot continue in sin and ask grace to abound. The issue of
discussing the 2018 budget should not even arise.
“Enough is enough. We must ensure that the 2017 budget is properly
implemented. We must ensure that the budget is an elitist. What they
have brought to us is a just a proposal. We need to give Nigerians a
budget that will benefit Nigerians.”
At the end of the debate, the Senate did not take a position.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided, did not subject
the points raised and suggestions made to any voice vote.
He, however, maintained that if the executive refuses to act, by
rolling over the 2017 budget, it would be a disaster. He said
lawmakers are not magicians.
“Truly, it is very disheartening and disappointing because we know how
much we have put into the budget process. How can anybody who is
responsible travel at this period when the budget defence is ongoing?
“The budget has not been implemented. We cannot be magicians. We just
have to work and give a good budget to Nigerians. The executive really
needs to sit up. If they have refused to roll over the 2017 projects
into 2018, it is a disaster,” he concluded.