By ‘Dotun Akintomide
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has attributed the delay in the signing of the 2017 budget 24 four days after its passage by the national assembly to the removal and changes made to the executive projects included in the first version of the budget proposal presented to a joint session of the national assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last December.
He said due to the changes, the presidency had to strike a deal with the leadership of the Senate to reinstate the budgetary allocations for all the important executive projects that were tampered with, by way of an application for virement that will be sent to the national assembly by the executive.
Osinbajo stated this after signing the budget on Monday in the presence of the national assembly leaders and members of the executive arm, “The final presentation and the signing of the budget has been considerably delayed. This was largely due to disagreements we had about the changes introduced to our 2017 Budget proposals by the National Assembly.
“The executive took the view that the changes fundamentally affected some of our priority programmes and would make implementation extremely difficult and in some cases impossible.
“I must say that the entire leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President and the Speaker, adopted a commendably patriotic and statesmanlike approach to our engagements on resolving these critical issues.
“In sum, the engagements yielded acceptable results. The most important being that the leadership of the National Assembly has given us a commitment that the National Assembly will reinstate the budgetary allocations for all the important executive projects such as the railway standard gauge projects, the Mambilla power project, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, etc., which they had been reduced to fund some of the new projects they introduced.
“This reinstatement will be by way of an application for virement by the executive which they have agreed will be expeditiously considered and approved by the National Assembly.
“It is as a result of that understanding and the outcome of our detailed engagements that we feel able to sign the 2017 Appropriation Bill into law today.
“I am also pleased to mention that in our discussions with the leadership of the National Assembly, we have jointly resolved to return to a predictable January to December fiscal year.
“It is a particularly important development because this aligns with the financial year of most private sector companies, underscoring the crucial relationship between government and the private sector.
“Therefore, on the understanding that we will be submitting the 2018 budget to the National Assembly by October 2017, the leadership of the National Assembly has committed to working towards the passage of the 2018 budget into law before the end of 2017.
“I must once more express my appreciation to the leadership of the National Assembly for the collaborative spirit in which these discussions were conducted.
“The 2017 budget, which I have signed into law today, is christened ‘Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth’ and reflects our commitment to ensure a strong linkage between the medium-term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) recently launched by President Muhammadu Buhari and the annual budget.
“It is designed to bring the Nigerian economy out of recession unto a path of sustainable and inclusive growth. The budget has a revenue projection of N5.08 trillion and an aggregate expenditure of N7.44 trillion. The projected fiscal deficit of N2.36 trillion is to be financed largely by borrowing.
“Let me assure those who have expressed concern about the growing public debt that we are taking several actions to grow government revenues as well as plug revenue leakages.
“This is because notwithstanding the fact that our borrowings are still within sustainability limits, we are determined, in the medium term, to reduce our reliance on borrowing to finance our expenditure,” he stated.
The acting president added that details of the budget, as approved by the National Assembly, would be made available by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
He also stressed that the economy was already signalling gradual recovery, as growth was heading towards positive territory.
“First quarter GDP at -0.52 per cent compares favourably with -2.06 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. Inflation is declining – down to 17.24 per cent as at May 2017 from 18.74 per cent. Our external reserves are now US$30.28 billion as at June 8, 2017, up from US$26.59 billion as at May 31, 2016.
“We are also gradually instilling confidence in our exchange rate regime. These improvement in GDP growth and other macroeconomic indicators are largely attributable to our strategic implementation of the 2016 budget as well as stronger macroeconomic management and policy coordination.
“I am confident that the 2017 budget will deliver positive economic growth and prosperity – one that is self-sustaining and inclusive. In this regard, the 2017 budget will be implemented in line with our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” Osinbajo stated.
Before the budget was signed, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, had issued a statement saying Osinbajo had been given the green light by Buhari to sign the Appropriation Bill into law.
“In a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed and addressed to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the president also said he was pleased by the joint resolution that the executive would submit next year’s budget proposals by October 2017 and the National Assembly will conclude the Appropriation process by December 2017, so that the country can return to a normal fiscal period from next year onwards,” the statement added.
The N7.43 trillion budget which proposes N2.9 trillion for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, N2.177 trillion for capital expenditure, N1.84 trillion for debt service and N177.4 billion for the sinking fund, was presented by Buhari in December last year and passed by the National Assembly on May 11 this year.