House Of Reps Set To Conclude Deliberations On Budget

House of RepsThe House of Representatives in Nigeria says it will conclude deliberations on the 2014 budget in the first week of April.

The Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Victor Ogene, told reports in Abuja on Thursday that the delay in the budget passage was occasioned by Ministries Departments and Agencies who have delayed in their budget defence, a matter, he said, the National Assembly could not control.

The budget was presented to the National Assembly on 19 December 2013.

An opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), gaining more number of lawmakers after several of them defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, gave a directive to the lawmakers to block the budget, a move aimed at coercing the President, Goodluck Jonathan to intervene in the crisis in Rivers State.

The party raised an alarm after a rally by the Save Rivers Movement was disrupted by the Nigeria Police Force, calling for the redeployment of the Commissioner of Police in the state.

Many Nigerians had expected that the delay in budget passage that had become become the fate of the country’s budget yearly would be corrected with expectation of early presentation.

But the presentation of the budget was, however, delayed when both the Senate and the House of Representatives were unable to reach an early agreement on the crude oil price benchmark.

Presenting the budget, after initial postponement by President Goodluck Jonathan,  the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that the 2014 budget envisaged net collectible revenue of 7.50 trillion Naira.

She said that 3.73 trillion Naira of the expected collectible revenue would be used to fund the 2014 budget, which focuses on boosting job creation and inclusive growth.

“The budget has been underpinned by the parameter of oil benchmark of 2.39 million barrels per day compared to 2.53 million barrels per day in 2013,” she said.

The budget is also underpinned by a benchmark oil price of $77.5 per barrel, projected real GDP growth of 6.75 per cent and average exchange rate of 160 Naira per dollar.

Reps Commence Debate On 2014 Budget, As PDP Regains Majority

The House of Representatives in Nigeria commenced debate on the 2014 appropriation bill on Tuesday after the ruling Peoples Democratic Party regained its majority leadership in the House.

The lawmakers began debate on the budget, following the ruling by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, on a point of order raised by a member that stalled the debate last week.

An All Progressives Congress’ lawmaker, Hon Emmanuel Jime, had pointed out that the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, did not submit an estimate of the budget appropriation, thereby stalling the proceedings.

He said: “The law requires that an estimate of the budget appropriations must be submitted with the budget, which was not adhered to.

“What we have is a summary and abridged version of the estimate. The Minister has no responsibility under this law to give us her own summary”.

After the point of order was raised, a PDP lawmaker, John Enoh, countered the order, saying that the budget estimate submitted had the needed estimate added to it. He insisted that the House should not stop the consideration of the budget on the ground that no estimate was submitted.

Some members of the house were mandated to look at the issue and advise the presiding officer accordingly. They were given 24 hours to advise the presiding officer.

After the speaker had been briefed, he insisted that the Minister of Finance must comply fully with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and submit the complete estimates of 31 government agencies to the house.

Honourable Tambuwal, however, ruled that the debate should commence, pending the submission of the estimates by the minister.

Defections Proceedings

But the proceedings began with what has become a normal feature of the House of Representatives proceedings, defections.

When it ended, five lawmakers had moved from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP with only one moving from the PDP to the APC.

At the end of the defection notices, the dispute between the PDP and the APC over majority leadership was laid to rest, as the PDP now has 178 lawmakers while APC reduced to 168.

Having concluded the defection issue, the house turned to the 2014 appropriation bill, specially to the committee set up to look into the non-compliance of the Executive arm of government with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The speaker appealed to the lawmakers not to be distracted with the political situations that had engulfed the country.

It was the first allotted day for the debate and lawmakers gave their positions on the budget.

APC’s ‘Block Budget Directive’ Will Not Work – Metuh

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says the All Progressives Congress’ ‘block the budget‘ directive to its members in Nigeria’s National Assembly will not work, as there are some responsible and reasonable lawmakers of the opposition party that will not uphold the directive.

Expressing the ruling party’s confidence that the directive will not be applied, the National Publicity Secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh, described the directive as cruel and wicked, saying that a party that claims to mean well for Nigeria should not issue such a statement.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) had issued a directive to its members in the National Assembly, asking them to block proceedings on the budget and the ratification of the list of Service Chiefs sent to the Legislature by the Executive.

Mr Metuh, on Monday, called on the APC to be as open and as transparent as the PDP and accept that it had made a mistake by issuing the directive, an act he said was against democracy and Nigerians.

“When we make mistake, we come on national television, we face Nigerians and say we have made mistakes. But here, APC has committed a big blunder, an act against democracy in this country and yet they are trying to justify it. That is sad.

“What I expected Lia Mohammed- APC’s Interim National Publicity Secretary – and the APC to be telling Nigerians is that; we made a mistake. What they have done is a simple thing of attempting to divide the child, insisting that the child should be divided.

“We have a democracy in Nigeria and it is the longest time we have had democracy. And what do you tell people? You attempt to stop that democracy because you believe that you are scoring a political point that will definitely boomerang,” he said on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily.

Consider Economic Principles Not Sentiments

The PDP member pointed out that in developed democracy, the issue of the passage of the budget or delay of the budget was discussed by considering economic principles and not sentiments.

“The focus should be on; what do we adopt, how do we put more money and what is the economic principle that we should adopt in defending the budget or in attempting to pass the budget.

“But here, you are bringing something that is definitely unconnected with issues at stake and you are telling your members to block the passage of the budget. Well, it will not work. Thank God that the APC is really exposing themselves to Nigerians for what they are,” Mr Metuh stressed.

He also accused the APC of trying to truncate democracy after the election, saying there is no way the party can win the election. “They are trying to insight Nigerians to turn out and cause unrest and mayhem after the election,” he claimed.

Mr Metuh also said that the PDP was not worried about the APC members effecting the statement in the National Assembly.

“We are more worried that they are attempting to cause disaffection among Nigerians. They are attempting to make sure that things do not work in an election year.”

On whether the number of the APC members in the National Assembly, which had gown due to defections of PDP members to the APC, will have any influence on the directive, Mr Metuh insisted that the true nature of things would unfold in the coming weeks.

He said that the fact that the PDP had been able to resolve its leadership challenges was beginning to restore member’s confidence.

 

Rivers’ Crisis

Several rallies organised by the Save Rivers Movement in Rivers State have been disrupted by the police and hoodlums on different occasions and the APC had cited the development as one of the reasons for the directive.

But Mr Metuh said that the crisis in Rivers state was political, peculiar to the state and caused by agitations over the leadership of the state.

He also said that the police had tried to maintain peace, law and order in the state.

“I know that there is a lot of noise in Rivers State and I don’t think there is any violence in Rivers, or mayhem or death of individuals to necessitate the blunder by the APC,” Metuh stated.

He insisted that the state government was dramatizing the issues and accused the Save Rivers Movement of not sending a request for security to the Police.

“They should always ask for police protection in a peaceful manner and engage the police in maintaining law and order when they are holding rallies. If they act normally they will have the protection that they need,” he emphasised.

The PDP spokesman debunked claims that the presidency does not care about the crisis in Rivers State, saying “there is no way the presidency will not care about what is happening in Rivers State because we are seeing a governor of a state that is engaging in unlawful act and issuing all kinds of statement that could threaten the nation’s democracy”.

Nigeria’s Finance Minister Calls For More Efforts In Economy Diversification

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has stressed the need for more attention to be paid to the issue of diversification of the economy, as many African countries are discovering oil.

Making a Presentation of the 2014 budget and a review of the performance of the 2013 budget in Abuja on Monday, Dr Okonjo-Iweala stressed that the contributions made by the non-oil sector to the economic growth recorded in 2013 must be sustained in order for the country to shift away from so much dependency on oil.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala pointed out that the number of African countries involving in oil drilling is increasing, forecasting that by 2025 almost all African countries will be listed among the oil producing countries.

“Nigeria has to wake up and sustain the non-oil contribution to the growth of our economy recorded in 2013,” she said.

In 2013, Nigeria’s economy grew by 6.5 per cent driven by growth in the non-oil sector.

The minister pointed out that the budget is a statement about the government fiscal policies and related policies that were designed to move the economy forward.

“It is not about resources allocated to various sectors but also about new fiscal policies that will stimulate growth in various sectors of the economy,” she said, responding to issues raised about the low allocation made to capital expenditure in the budget.

Creation Of Jobs

Dr Okonjo-Iweala emphasised that the impact of the policy may make resources available to the sector to generate funds that were 10 times the amount seen in the budget.

Critics have said that the budget christened ‘Budget of Inclusive Growth’ would not be able to grow jobs in Nigeria.

But the Minister said that the government used the budget process as an occasion to launch policies that could leverage significant resources outside of the budget to help grow the economy, create jobs to the benefit of Nigerians.

“The whole set of industrial incentive policies are a deliberate act of government policies that will enable the creation of jobs.

“It enables the manufacturing industries to be competitive and be able to expound and create jobs.

“Job creation is linked very well to the policies of the government.

“Some people think that these policies are policies that lead to fraud.  In the past, these policies were not applied the way they should. They have been restructured and revamped so that it would be on sectorial bases and everybody operating within the sector has equal opportunities,” she said.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala explained that the budget was transparent and detail to the point that “it goes down to buying plates, folks, knifes and food in the State House.

“I am proud about the level of detail in the budget that allows Nigerians to see down to the last Naira and what it is spent on.

“It is designed to engage the debate to show them exactly where the money is going.

Oil Bench Mark Parameter

Nigeria’s budget process is becoming difficult and more challenging for the Executive and the Legislature to agree on key parameters but the Minister suggested that Nigeria should develop a system where an objective and depoliticised process should be adopted for some of the parameters to be considered to be able to move the budget expeditiously.

“It will remove the rancour from the system. We should look at adopting an objective and independent process that will help determine the parameters to take it away from the realm of argument. Countries like Ghana and Chile did same and it working for them. I believe it will also work here,” she said.

On the high share of 74 per cent expenditure in the budget, the Minister said that recurrent expenditures in the budget were of great concern to the government, as they reduced the size of funds available for investments in capital projects.

“This has been our view from the first day that we came into this job. We have not yet been able to make the choices needed to change the structure of the budget.

“The high ratio of recurrent expenditure now, after a reduction to about 65 per cent made some years back, arose because of the awards to salaries that were given in 2010.

“The personnel bill doubled in size almost. Pension arrears were also factored into the budget,” Dr Okonjo-Iweala explained.

Tough Choices To Make

She stressed that as long as the government had continuous awards, the recurrent budget would be jacked up.

“We need to make some tough choices. There are duplicative agencies that need to be slimed down. We need to make some tough choices to strike that balance needed in the budget.

“The legislature should review and repeal some of the laws that underpin agencies of the government to enable the government streamline government expenditure.

“We are all in this together. The Executive, Legislature, civil society and Nigerians. We need to come together and People need to realise that each time that personnel cost goes up the recurrent cost goes up,” she stated.

She pointed out that the failure to streamline the agencies, because of law issues, was creating a problem.

Nigeria May See Only 12% Infrastructure Growth in 2014

The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Mr Eze Onyekpere, says the allocation of 23.7 per cent to capital expenditure in Nigeria’s 2014 budget is too small to push the needed infrastructure development.

Analysing Nigeria’s 2014 budget on Channels Television Programme, the Gavel, Mr Onyekpere stressed that the allocation was very poor for a country aspiring to rank among the top 20 world economies by 2020.

He said that his organisation took a critical look at the ‘frivolous and wasteful expenditure’ in the budget.

“Huge amount of money is spent on travels, refreshments, security and other unnecessary expenses.

“What do these figures contribute to the nation? Nothing!

“What the government is doing is not sustainable and not the way for a country that had a lot of infrastructure deficit. It is unsustainable and the more we do this, we get worse,” he explained.

In 2013, Nigeria allocated about 27 per cent of the budget to capital expenditure.

But Mr Onyekpere pointed out that Nigeria had never used above 60 per cent of its capital expenditure.

“Going by this, you will be talking about using only 12 to 13 per cent of the budget by the end of the year.

“But of course, the recurrent expenditure is fully drawn down by the end of the year,” he said.

He said that his organisation had submitted its observation of the unnecessary expenditure to the National Assembly which had not responded.

He stressed the need for transparency in handling the budget, saying that Nigerians both the literates and illiterates should have a fair knowledge of what the budget contained and how it was spent.

Mr Onyekpere called on Nigerians to speak out and kick against the wasteful expenses by the government in order to drive the government to adjusting the expenses and channel the funds into capital expenditure.

Wages and bills have the highest allocations in the 2014 budget, a development that economists and analysts have condemned.

The Centre for Social Justice’s head called for an empirical way of determining the wage structure in Nigeria based on an individual’s contribution to the nation’s economy.

“The bloated wage of some members of the National Assembly should be based on such justification,” he said.

Okonjo-Iweala To Give Breakdown Of 2014 Budget On January 22

The Nigerian Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, will give a full breakdown of Nigeria’s 2014 budget next week Wednesday.

The public presentation will afford more Nigerians an opportunity to get better insight into the government’s spending plan for 2014.

Earlier, the House of Representatives had asked the Minister to answer the questions given to her by its committee on Finance on the 2014 budget.

The questions were given to her when she appeared before the House to give a report on the Nigerian economy but the House refused to let her deliver the report after she said she was ill.

Speaking at a pre-resumption press briefing, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Representative,  Zakari Mohammed, said that the Committee on Finance was acting under the mandate given to it by the House and as such, the Minister should answer the questions as it would aid the House in the consideration of the budget.

The House Committee on Finance had given the Finance Minister two weeks to submit a written response to the questions which center on the economy but the Minister is yet to respond to the questions.

Nigeria’s Finance Minister Predicts Tight 2014 Budget

The Minister of Finance and the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has told Nigerians to expect a fairly tight budget as the country awaits the presentation of the harmonised 2014 budget by President Goodluck Jonathan to the joint session of the National Assembly.

She said this during a breakfast dialogue with the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, in which she assessed the performance of the economy for 2013.

In what seems to be her last appearance before the organised private sector for the year 2013, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala provided a breakdown of Nigeria’s economic performance in 2013 by highlighting one after the other, sectors of the economy that had recorded remarkable improvement.

She said “some of the government’s schemes like YouWIN was highly successful” with a target to provide even more jobs in the coming year. She also stated the need for Nigeria to improve on its fights against corruption.

While speaking to Channels Television, she gave a hint that the 2014 budget would be a fairly tight one. She said: “We have a theme of fiscal consolidation with growth, which means we are going to direct the budget to those sectors that will give the most growth in the economy, and that means that we will tighten but at the same time priortise.

“All the infrastructural sectors are top priority for the President, and the budget will go towards supporting those sectors. In power, it will be transmission, as we are channelling a lot of resources into transmission.”

The Nigerian economy is expected to get a boost from agriculture, tax generation, automobile and the non-oil sector of the economy. These are seen to have become paramount as the population continues to grow with its attendant socio-economic challenges.

Reps Disagree Over Presidential Address On 2014 Budget

A motion seeking to allow President Goodluck Jonathan present the 2014 budget to Federal Lawmakers on Tuesday, November 12, led to a sharp disagreement in the House of Representatives.

A lawmaker, Ali Madaki, had raised a motion in which he drew attention to the poor implementation of the 2013 budget and questioned the need to receive a new budget.

“As we speak, the implementation of 2013 budget is less than 40 percent. We must not turn the budget presentation into an annual ritual,” he cautioned.

The motion led to a passionate debate and division among the lawmakers, but it was, however, passed when put to vote by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.