How Senators View Nigeria’s 2017 Budget

Senate on 2017 budgetAt least 30 Senators on Wednesday gave their views on areas they feel the Executive Arm of Government needs to focus on if the nation is to attain some level of socio-economic development.

It was the second plenary in the week presided over by Senator Bukola Saraki, the Senate President and the 2017 Budget was one major bill that deliberations focused on.

Some of the areas the senators want the government to prioritise are infrastructure and agriculture.

After the Senate President led the lawmakers into plenary, he demanded that Senators should make their individual contributions to the 2017 Budget.

Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso spoke on the need to have at least one per cent allocation of the budget to the Health Sector. The Senator also harped on the need for increased personnel provisions for salaries to avoid incessant strikes in the health sector in 2017.

Senator Nelson Effiong identified what he called the focus of the budget on local workforce and commended the five per cent VAT which he believes will build investor confidence.

He also commended the increase in budgetary allocations of the Amnesty Programme from 45 billion Naira in 2016 to 65 billion in 2017.

The low capital expenditure in the budget, was of concern to Senator George Sekibo, who warned that Nigeria was indeed broke and had no money.

He pointed out that there was an increase personnel cost in the 2017 Budget “even when we say we are saving costs” and demanded that contractors should be paid.

While Senator Bassey Akpan lamented the high budget deficit and the poor management of foreign exchange rates, fiscal and monetary policies, he also commended the increased budget allocation towards increasing agricultural production.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa commended the Executive for bringing the MTEF in good time as well as keying-into the revamp of railways.

“We must compare the 2016 Budget’s performance with the estimated allocations in the 2017 Budget,” he said, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should tell Nigerians how much funds they had recovered in order to ensure transparency.

Senator Shehu Sani expressed hopes that the allocation to Education in the budget would address the basic issues in the sector while Senator Yele Omogunwa spoke on the factual data and statistics of unemployed, widows and others for National Planning and budget implementation.

Senator Omogunwa further highlighted that Nigeria’s budgets do not have maximal impact due to corruption and mockingly called for the legalisation and liberalisation of corruption.

Senator Jide Omoworare spoke on the need to reduce recurrent and increase capital expenditure. “Government has to spend more.  The allocations for Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture should be increased as the nation moves move towards diversification, PPP and Concessioning.

“The Peace in the Niger Delta Region should be sustained and the time line on MTEF and Budgets be reviewed,” he requested.

The Senator further stressed that there was a need to look at developmental planning from the past and improve on it for the future.

On his part, Senator Dino Melaye told the Senate that “truth be told, the 2017 Budget is too ambitious” and that “we borrow to swagger”, harping on the need to develop Agriculture to liberate the economy.

Senator John Enoh, like a professional in developmental economics, focused on the need to increase salaries and wages; high personnel costs; deficit budget; borrowing and revenue projections towards the implementation of the budget.

Senator Biodun Olujimi questioned the success or otherwise of the Treasury Savings Account. She said the Federal Government was paying lip service to diversification.

Senator Matthew Urhoghide spoke on the non-implementation of the Abuja Declaration on allocations to the Health Sector.

Senator Urhoghide further told the 8th Senate that they owed Nigerians a duty to do the right thing by allocating for basic health infrastructures budget.

Senator Sola Adeyeye decried the allocation to the education sector, saying “Nigeria is a pathetically poor country with an entire education budget of 448 billion Naira being 20% of that of Harvard University”.

Senator Adeyeye further identified an increased debt servicing in the 2017 Budget and demanded that cost of government must be reduced.

He said: “We must strengthen our private sector. Power, Road, Railway and Refinery Infrastructure must be developed”.

Senator Abu Ibrahim appreciated President Buhari for plans towards stabilising the country, commending the Social Intervention Plans.

For Senator Ali Ndume, the budget passed annually by the Senate so far lacks details. He says Senators need to know the sub-heads.

Senator Ndume further stressed the need for the allocations towards the humanitarian crisis in the North East to be increased.

After several other Senators took turn to give their views on the budget, the Senate Leader moved that the plenary should be adjourned to the next legislative day, Thursday, to continue the debate on the budget.

Presidency Says Economic Team Considering Policy Options

Yemi-Osinbajo-Nigeria-VPThe Economic Management Team has been considering several policy options and measures to urgently reform and revitalise the economy, a presidency official said on Monday.

Spokesman for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Laolu Akande, said that some of the measures may require legislative amendments and presidential orders.

He said that such inputs would enable the Executive Arm of Government move quickly in implementing the economic reform plans.

“As far as I know, this has not been passed on to the President, the Federal Executive Council or the Legislative arm of government,” he said.

This is coming a day after some Nigerians expressed their feelings about the policies of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in a poll.

Most of the voters said they were confused about the policy thrust of the government.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has said that the government was pumping money into the economy to revamp it.

 

Lagos-Calabar Rail Project: Ministry Of Budget Clarifies 2016 Budget

2016 BudgetThe Ministry of Budget And Planning has come out with its position on the controversies surrounding the 2016 budget.

The ministry in a statement said the President is yet to take a position on the budget after receiving the budget details from the National Assembly on April 7.

On the controversial Calabar-Lagos rail project, the ministry confirmed that there were indeed some errors in the initial budget proposal sent to the National Assembly by the President in December.

The statement, however, added that the errors were corrected, submitted and subsequently accepted by the relevant committees of the National Assembly.

The statement read in part, “It must be emphasized that the two rail projects are part of those for which the President is currently negotiating funding with the Chinese government.

“The 60billion Naira provided in the budget for the Lagos – Kano and Calabar – Lagos rail lines, respectively, is counterpart funding, to support the Chinese financing for the projects.

“These projects are part of the strategic implementation plan of the government which was disclosed by the Minister of Budget and National Planning at The National Economic Council retreat in March 2016, in the presence of state governors.”

The statement added that it was the corrected version that was defended by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and his team.

Mischief

It has been a tug of war between the executive and the legislature over the 2016 budget, as the National Assembly insists that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was excluded from the budget.

At a news conference in Abuja, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, insisted that there was no project as to Lagos-Calabar rail in the 2016 appropriation bill presented by President Buhari to the National Assembly.

He criticised the late presentation of the project by Minister of Transport, Mr Chibuike Amaechi.

Also, in a strongly worded press statement, the spokesperson of the Senate, accused the Presidency of setting Nigerians against the National Assembly.

He accused the Minister of Transport of mischief and demanded an apology from him if he is not able to show evidence that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was included in the budget, otherwise he should resign forthwith.

In another development, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, confirmed that although the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not in the original document presented to the National Assembly by the executive, the Minister of Transport later informed the Transport Committee of the omission and sent a complimentary copy of the Ministry’s budget to the committee with the inclusion of the Lagos-Calabar rail project.

2016 Budget: Executive, NASS Row Over Calabar-Lagos Rail Project

Railway-NigeriaThe back and forth arguments between Nigeria’s Executive Arm of Government and the National Assembly over the 2016 budget appear to be intensifying, as the lawmakers insist that the Calabar-Lagos rail project was not included in the 2016 budget.

Nigeria’s 2016 budget is one of the most controversial bill in recent time, with issues of its late submission to reports of it being missing then found, then reports of appropriation being padded.

After several months of debate and scrutiny, the budget was passed by the National Assembly but the Executive Arm of Government seem not satisfied with the final product from the lawmakers.

There have been reports quoting the executive as saying that the budget was distorted, with the removal of certain items and addition of some others that were not initially in the budget.

One of such projects that the executive claims were removed is a rail project that will connect the south-south region and the south-west – Calabar-Lagos rail project.

Countering the widespread reports that the National Assembly removed the project from the 2016 budget, the spokesman for the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, told a news conference in Abuja on Monday that a late presentation of the project by the Minister of Transport, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, was out of place.

He pointed out that the President was the only one constitutionally empowered to make budgetary proposals to the parliament.

Also, the Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, in a strongly worded press statement accused the presidency of setting Nigerians against the National Assembly.

He accused the Minister of Transport of mischief and demanded an apology from the Minister if he was not able to show evidence that the Calabar-Lagos rail project was included in the budget. He also requested that he should reign if he could not present the evidence.

In another development, however, the Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Asahafa, in a statement confirmed that although the Lagos-Calabar rail line project was not in the original document presented to the National Assembly by the executive, the Minister of Transport had later informed the Transport Committee of the omission and sent a supplementary copy of the ministry’s budget to the committee with the inclusion of the Calabar-Lagos rail project.

But the National Assembly apparently did not treat the proposal.

The National Assembly will resume plenary on Tuesday, April 12, and all eyes would be on the parliament to see what its next steps would be on the budget controversy.

Lawmaker Urges Executives To Be Cautious In EU Partnership

EPAA lawmaker has warned the executive arm of government in Nigeria to be cautious in signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).

Moving a motion on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, a legislator from Ekiti State, Segun Adekola, said that Nigeria was not economically ready for such partnership with a weak manufacturing base and infrastructural deficit.

The motion argued that entering into such partnership without full preparation would amount to economic suicide for Nigerian industries and also confine the economy to a mere extension of the European Union markets.

Some lawmakers, however, believed that such caution might be counterproductive unless other African countries involved in the EPA were carried along.

In his response, the Speaker of the House, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, explained that the motion and the issue it presented was still subject to examination by the lower chamber, stressing that it would be dispassionately examined before concrete decisions would be taken.

The House, therefore, referred the issue to the Committee on Commerce and Industry to get the details of the agreement and its implications to Nigeria’s comparative advantage and report back in four weeks.

The EPA is a policy to create a free trade area between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific –ACP- group of states in which negotiations over these trade and development agreements have been on since 2005.

The EPA opens up the European Union markets fully and immediately but allows ACP countries long transition periods to open up partially to EU imports while providing protection for sensitive areas.

Imo Lawmakers Demand 40 Billion Naira Unpaid Oil Rates

oilThe Imo State House of Assembly has passed a bill urging the State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, to demand the immediate payment of outstanding ground rents and other statutory payments, amounting to 40 billion Naira from Oil companies operating in the state since 1978. 

As contained in the bill, the Governor is expected to direct the Chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue in the state to mandate the companies to pay up all outstanding ground rent and other statutory payments owed the since the said period.

It also directed the oil companies to comply and henceforth pay all entitlements due the state as at when due.

While deliberating on a motion moved by the member representing Oguta State Constituency, Honourable Henry Ezediaro, the House decried the continued short-changing of the state by oil companies, stating that the companies have capitalised on the peaceful disposition of the people to deny them of their rights and privileges.

The motion, which was supported by three other House members, maintained that with the present economic challenges facing the nation and its resultant effect on state governments, the House would explore all channels to assist the Executive Arm of Government in generating additional funds, to enable it render services to the people of the state.

The Lawmakers decried the actions and negligence of the plights of their host communities in the area of providing social amenities, stressing that such will no longer be tolerated.

However, a nine-man committee was set up to supervise the debt recovery, interface with the oil companies and report their findings to the House within 60 days.

Analyst Blames Executive Arm For Delay In Budget Implementation

Former Director, Kwara State Public Service, Ibrahim Abdullhahi has laid blame on the Executive arm of government for the poor performance of the 2012 and 2013 budgets, as well as the on-going disagreements over the 2014 budget which was presented in December.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily, Mr Abdullahi who is also a Fellow in the Chartered Institute of Personal Management of Nigeria, said issues of budgeting should be addressed from the angle of the Executive and not the Legislative arm of government.

In his opinion, the President should assent to corrections or changes should be made by the National Assembly for the sake of timely implementation. “In democracy, once the budget is submitted, appraised by the legislature, approved (either below or above what is proposed), it is proper for the executive to assent to it whether having issues on it or not, because of progress, development and objective of the budget itself,” he said.

He added that the poor performance of the 2012 and 2013 budgets was due to all the delays which occured as a result of disagreements between the executive and the legislature. He added that the executive is to be blamed because it should have signed the budget.

“Sign the budget and continue to relate with the legislature on the areas of difference for quick implementation of the budget because of the citizens and the effectiveness of performance of the budget,” he said.

On the poor performance of the previous budgets, he said “the nation is not particularly happy that budget performance in 2012 was low. The nation is not happy that the performance is low in 2013.”

Although the 2012 budget was passed early, performance was pegged at 47% due to issues of implementation while the 2013 budget was passed late and performance was not up to 45%. Abdullahi described this as an “unfortunate development.”

In order to avoid a repetition in the future, he advised the President to prepare the 2015 budget before the next election. “I would want the president to ensure that he has a budget to present before the next election. He should ensure that the budget for next year is submitted as early as October this year,” he said.

Although several analysts and economists have faulted the 2014 budget which accounts for 60% recurrent expenditure, Abdullahi hinted that it is required as “it is the man and the materials that we use to achieve our objectives.”

He added that “we need the men and the materials and that is where the expenses on the recurrent have gone.” He however stated that the capital expenditure should be more.

He also appealed to the National Assembly to avoid politicking and consider the budget wholistically for the welfare of Nigerians.

National Assembly Is More Corrupt Than The Executive Arm Of Govt – Akiri

The Chairman Editorial Board, National Daily Newspapers, Chris Akiri, has accused the National Assembly of being more corrupt than the executive arm of the government and is only trying to impose itself on that arm by instigating a removal of the immunity clause protecting executive officers from prosecution while in office.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Akiri said the National Assembly’s motion to remove the immunity clause won’t stand the test of time.

He hinted that corruption is rife in the National Assembly than in the executive arm. He questioned the House’s determination to remove the immunity clause on the executive arm “when in fact the root of corruption in Nigeria, the big oak tree root of corruption in Nigeria is in the National Assembly”.

Mr Akiri, who is also a legal practitioner, averred that what the nation needs is a brand new constitution because the present one is “a lie, a statutory lie.”

He pointed out that the 1999 constitution is full of inconsistencies. “The constitution is an amalgam of rank inconsistencies, it is at once federal and unitary, and it is at once secular and theocratic, it is at one democratic and authoritarian.”

He added that “the constitution should not just be amended but it must be reviewed,” defining amendment as a “cosmetic change” and a review “a total overhaul”.

The removal of the immunity clause will expose the President, a key member of the executive arm of government, to impeachment by the legislative arm and regimentation by the judiciary which runs against the standing clause that all arms of government should intimidate each other, he said.

He added that it would allow for frivolous petitions and accusations against the executive officers by their opposition.

“The only court which the president should be answerable to is the Nigerian parliament” and if he is to face criminal charges, it has to be charged after he vacates office.

However, Mr Akiri states that the problem is “even when he leaves office, he is regarded as a sacred cow” adding that there is no political will to deal with erring executives immediately they vacate office.

Nigeria’s Budgeting Process Is ‘Guess Work’ – Financial Analyst

A Financial Analyst, Bandele Olusegun on Thursday faulted the entire budgeting procedure  in Nigeria, referring to it as ‘guess work’ because the government does not apply analytics when planning the budget.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Olusegun supported the National Assembly in its stance against the executive arm of government regarding the current state of the 2013 National Budget, which is yet to be passed.

“If the 2013 was properly done, there wouldn’t have been any need to amendment” he said, adding that “the National Assembly is doing its job.”

Mr Olusegun called on the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to change the process of budgeting in the country. “A budget drawn up without data is not a budget, it’s a guess work”.

Nigeria is currently using cash based accounting system which he says allows for lapses in ensuring the completion of budgets.

He alleged that cash based accounting system allows for holes in the country’s accounts which in turn affects the budget. He said this is why there is ‘so much fraud’ in the budgeting process.

He suggested that the country adopts the accrual system which is the trend worldwide.

The budget was submitted in October 2012.

Lawyer Says State of The Nation Address Fracas Is An Ego Issue

A legal practitioner, Moyosore Onigbanjo, has said the on-going row between President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly over the State of the Nation address is an issue of ego.

With President Jonathan’s refusal to sign the passed State of the nation bill into law, Mr Onigbanjo noted that the lawmakers would also consider it demeaning if the address is to given by a representative instead of the President.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Onigbanjo, stated that Clauses 1, 2, 3, 5 of the bill which Mr. President objected to, is a device by the National Assembly to compel the President into performing the duty asked of him.

Although Section 67 of the Nigerian constitution gives the President powers of discretion in addressing the a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, Mr Onigbanjo says, the lawmakers are trying to use the bill to change it into a mandatory function.

He said President Jonathan has taken “sound legal advice” by objecting to the clauses in question. However, the constitution guarantees the right of the citizens to demand accountability.

Nothing can override the President’s discretionary powers as outlined in the Nigerian constitution, he said, except an amendment is made to Section 67 of the Nigerian constitution.

Ne noted that “the position of the law is that when there is conflict between any law and the provisions of the Constitution, the provisions of the Constitution prevail.”

The lawyer warned that despite the National Assembly’s threat to override the President’s position, “the President would still not be compelled to attend” according to the law.

The United States of America, South Africa and Ghana are countries where the President is required to deliver an annual State of the nation or union address.

“It is a way of rendering account to the people” Onigbanjo said.

Reps. set for nationwide grassroot hearing on constitution review

The House of Representatives has concluded arrangements to hold public hearings on the review of the 1999 constitution across the 360 federal constituencies in the country.

In a statement, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives; Emeka Ihedioha stated that the sessions aim to bring the process of constitution review closer to the people.

He stated that various institutions, political parties and civil societies have been invited to contribute their views.

Issues identified to be discussed include recognition of the six zonal structure; creation of states; structure, funding and creation of local governments as well as indigene, residency and citizenship questions.

Others are fiscal federalism, removal of immunity clause establishment of state police as well as zoning and power sharing and terms of office of the president and governors.

The deputy speaker further stated that decisions at the sessions shall be reached, as much as possible, by consensus but where that fails, decisions will be reached by voting.

He however assured that the views of the majority would prevail.