President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, said he was compelled to sign the 2018 appropriation bill into law.
The President said left to him he would refused assenting the proposal because many projects which will be difficult to execute were inserted into the proposal different from the one submitted by the executive.
President Buhari, who said the budget was padded, complained that the National Assembly uttered the proposal to such an extent that he would forward to the legislature a supplementary budget to make up for the shortfall in due course.
Buhari signed into law the N9.12 trilion Appropriation Bill without the presence of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, at the State House, Abuja, Wednesday.
Buhari, while signing the budget said he was compelled to append his signature in order not to keep the economy grounded.
He berated the National Assembly for cutting the budget estimates, especially in key sectors which he said would have impacted more on the economy.
He also indicated the interest to forward supplementary budget to the National Assembly to make up the figures that were cut by the lawkers.
According to Buhari: “When I submitted the 2018 Budget proposals to the National Assembly on 7th November 2017, I had hoped that the usual legislative review process would be quick, so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year. The importance of this predictability cannot be overemphasized.
“While the Federal Government’s budget represents less than 10% of aggregate yearly expenditures in the economy, it has a very significant accelerator effect on the financial plans of other tiers of government, and even more importantly, the private sector, which mostly operates on a January-December financial year.
“Notwithstanding the delay this year, I am determined to continue to work with the National Assembly towards improving the budgeting process and restoring our country to the January-December fiscal cycle.
“I note, with pleasure, that the National Assembly is working on the enactment of an Organic Budget Law, so as to improve the efficiency of the nation’s budgetary process.
“As I mentioned during the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, we intend to use the 2018 Budget to consolidate the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.”
The President said it was towards that regard that “I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented. The logic behind the Constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that, it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects.”
He continued: “Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me. The National Assembly made cuts amounting to 347 billion Naira in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to 578 billion Naira.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation. Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute.
“Furthermore, many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.
“As it is, some of these projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened.
“Such examples of projects from which cuts were made are as follows: The provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of 11.5 billion Naira.
“Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of 7.5 billion Naira.
“The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by 3.9 billion Naira from 4 billion Naira to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.”
Buhari pointed out that money voted to execute so many other projects was so sliced that in many instances nothing meaningful can be achieved in such sectors.
He said: “About seventy (70) new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote. Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly.”