•Passes N6.060trn 2016 budget
From Fred Itua, Abuja
THE Eighth National Assembly made history on Wednesday when it passed the N6.06 trillion 2016 Appropriation Bill, reduced by N17 billion.
That would be the first time in the history of the Fourth Republic that a federal budget would be passed without a raise.
Exactly three months after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2016 budget to a joint session , the two chambers of the National Assembly, yesterday, passed N6,060,677,358,227, to be issued from the Federation Account.
The new budget was reduced by N17,002,641,773 from the original N6,077,680,000,000 proposed by Buhari.
In the new budget, capital expenditure is N1,060 trillion while recurrent expenditure was reduced by N2.2 billion from a proposed N2.648 trillion to N2.646 trillion.
The budget was predicated on an oil benchmark of $38 dollars per barrel, with daily crude oil production of 2.2 million barrels and an exchange rate of N197 to a dollar. sectoral allocations indicated that the Interior Ministry got N513 billion for recurrent and capital expenditure while Defence got n442 billion closely followed by Education with N403.1 billion.
The Health ministry got N221.4 billion for both recurrent and capital expenditure but Power, Works and Housing Ministry got N422.9 billion alone for capital expenditure for 2016.
Presenting the report of the Committee on Appropriation for consideration in the Senate, Danjuma Goje observed that because the budget was presented late, it did not give ample time for consideration.
He recalled how the 2016 budget was fraught with some inconsistencies from federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and added that available revenue was inadequate to meet demands.
On his part, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekwerenmadu said although the executive presented a proposal, it was the job of the Senate to make up the lapses.
Across the lobby, in the House of Representatives, Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila insisted that the position of the House, which is that Excess Crude Account (ECA) is illegal, must be emphasised.
Back to the Red Chamber, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki commended committees of the National Assembly for a job well done.
He said that the budget reflected an efficient and equitable allocation of resources and expressed optimism that in future, the hiccups experienced in the budget would be avoided through more interactions between the budget office and other agencies.
“It is the duty of the executive to ensure full implementation of this budget as part of the campaign to bring succour to our people. While implementing , we charge the executive also considers the areas of supporting locally produced goods in order to help our economy.
“I also particularly observed that we have made an effort to reduce the size of the budget in our own view to ensure that we reduce our deficit and also reduce our level of borrowing. As much as possible we all want a budget that is sustainable.
Briefing National Assembly correspondents after the budget passage, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who chairs the Appropriation Committee in the House of Representatives said it was the first time since 1999 that the country is witnessing a reduction in aggregate expenditure. He said though the budget estimates were huge, the National Assembly was able to effect a cut in the initial estimates.
“We all know the challenges that accompanied this bill and often times, with overheads being most contentious.
“We engaged the Executive and the Budget Office on it because we also discovered that several critical items that were not in the budget.
“We had to allocate funds to those areas. We also have to tilt some allocations in favor of security, anti corruption drive in order to strike a balance with the policy thrust of the government,” he said.
The Committee also said almost all parts of the bill presented to the National Assembly were tinkered with except for President Muhammadu Buhari’s N500b intervention programmes.