■ NASS to get 2017 budget October
FROM JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, ABUJA
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has finally signed the controversial 2016 budget into law. This is even as he has admitted that Nigeria was experiencing the toughest economic times in the nation’s history, adding “We are absolutely committed to changing the structure of the Nigerian economy once and for all”.
The N6.06 trillion budget pegged at $38 per barrel was slashed by N200 million from the N6.08 trillion submitted by President Buhari. The President’s assent finally brings to an end the controversy surrounding the budget.
The National Assembly had in April transmitted details of the budget to the president after passing the bill on March 23rd, but it was returned, citing omissions of important capital projects, budget padding among other allegations.
According to Buhari who said he’ll speak more on the budget on May 29th, the signing will trigger concerted efforts to reflate the Nigerian economy, “a key element of which is an immediate injection of N350 billion into the economy by way of capital projects”.
The President reiterated his administration’s commitment to infrastructural development by allocating over N200 billion to road construction as against a paltry N18bn allocated for same purpose in the 2015 budget.
He assured that despite the present difficulties facing the nation, his government will work extra hard to achieve revenue projections, adding that the revenue generating agencies are now coming under better management and are being re-oriented.
According to him, “The implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) is expected to contribute significantly to improving transparency over government revenues. Our determined fight against corruption is resulting in improvements in the quality of public expenditure. The work of the Efficiency Unit, as well as other public financial management initiatives, are also contributing in this regard. The continuing efforts to reduce recurrent expenditures should hopefully free up more funds for capital expenditure in 2017 and beyond”.
President Buhari reiterated that he is not alienated from the daily struggles of Nigerians. “I read the newspapers and listen to the TV and radio news. I hear your cries. share your pains. We are experiencing probably the toughest economic times in the history of our Nation. I want to commend the sacrifice, resilience and toughness of all Nigerians young and old who have despite the hardships continued to have hope and confidence of a great future for Nigerians. But permit me to say that this government is also like none other. We are absolutely committed to changing the structure of the Nigerian economy once and for all”.
The President assured that he and his team were working night and day to diversify the economy “such that we never again have to rely on one commodity to survive as a country. So that we can produce the food we eat, make our own textiles, produce most of things we use. We intend to create the environment for our young people to be able to innovate and create jobs through technology.
“I cannot promise you that this will be an easy journey but in the interest of so much and so many we must tread this difficult path. But I can assure you this government you have freely elected will work with honesty and dedication day and night to ensure that our country prospers and that the prosperity benefits all Nigerians. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the signing, the Senate President Bukola Saraki, said while admitting that the process of budget passing was not easy, assured that the National Assembly will monitor the implementation through oversight functions to ensure Nigerians benefit.
He said, “I want to assure Nigerians that from the comment from the mouth of the President our commitment is to see that the budget is implemented, it’s not just the assent, it’s now the implementation, that is when Nigerians will begin to see the benefits.
“Like I said let’s focus on the good part and play less on the controversy, that is behind us now and I want to assure Nigerians that the benefit expected from this budget is implemented”.
Asked if the 2017 budget will experience similar controversy as the 2016, Saraki assured that it won’t happen. According to him, “One is the fact that the process will start early. Don’t forget the fact that the government only came in May of last year. We have a longer time now to prepare, the government is in place, the new appointments and those in National Assembly are in place, I’m sure it will not be like this . Let us focus on what that document is and that is the benefits to Nigerians that we will begin to see in the implementation. And that is what we will do in our oversight function”.
Saraki said the signed budget maintained that minimum of 30 percent goes into capital to ensure the President’s policy on diversification which will ensure less reliance on oil revenue.
While thanking all those who worked to make the budget a reality, the Senate President added, “ in the process, on a lighter side, I think a lot of officials on the sides of the Executive and Legislature lost some weights. Though it was not planned I think it was a good thing as well because we have officials who are more fitter here.
“On a serious note, I think we have shown again that despite the challenges, we can work together as a government that has the interest of the people that have put us here at heart.
“We should look at the good side more and forge ahead. Most important part after the signing of course is the implementation, to ensure that the benefits of Nigerians who waited are met.”
Also speaking to newsmen, the Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma disclosed that the National Assembly will receive the 2017 budget by October so that the passage can come in December.
He assured that there will be extensive consultation with the National Assembly and Civil Society organisations to avoid similar controversy that trailed the 2016 budget .
Those who witnessed the signing were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; chairmen Senate and House of Representatives Appropriation committees, Danjuma Goje and Abdulmumuni Jibril; Minster of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Minister Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, his minister of state, Zainab Ahmed; Special Assistants to the president on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang and Abdulrahman Kawu and some other presidential aides.