Tag Archives: National Assembly

Protesters storm NASS, demand end to constituency projects

Protesters storm NASS, demand end to constituency projects

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, George Opara (Abuja) and Joseph Onyekwere (Lagos)

• We can’t be intimidated, say senators
• Ask Buhari to deal with sponsors, execute budget
• Suit against running costs for hearing Oct. 29
Scores of protesters early yesterday stormed the National Assembly, demanding the scrapping of constituency projects by the lawmakers.The protesters, under the aegis of the National Convener of Citizens’ Action to take back Nigeria (CATBAN), also demanded that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, resign from their positions.

The protesters, who came in luxury buses, carried placards with various inscriptions, including, “Nigerians are not represented in the sharing of loots via constituency projects, Dear legislators, to make laws is not to execute projects, legislators are not executives.”The National Convener of the group, Garba Wala, alleged that the lawmakers had turned the constituency projects to conduit pipes for siphoning funds meant for Nigerians.Wala said that the concerns raised by President Muhammadu Buhari while signing the 2018 budget indicated that the National Assembly was “stealing the common patrimony of the people through constituency projects.”

According to him, “The concerns are indications that Saraki and Dogara lacked credibility and moral capacity and, as such, should resign.“The President told Nigerians that our federal legislators connived among themselves and removed priority developmental projects carefully prepared by the Federal Government to impact on the lives of the citizenry.

“The National Assembly made cut of N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6, 403 private projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.” According to him, it is painful that this year’s budget followed the regular path of “stealing in the bogus constituency projects.”

“In spite of the wishy-washy response of the National Assembly justifying its distortion of the 2018 budget, there is ample evidence to show that they shortchanged their constituents who elected them to make laws for the good governance of the country.“Despite the additional N170 billion for constituency projects, together with the N100 billion already provided for in the budget, the National Assembly still went ahead to cut allocations to important national projects. The cut was aimed at distorting the budget in order to further increase their allocation for constituency projects.

“This is one big scandal that brings to light how the nation’s annual budgets have been padded over the years to the disadvantage of 180 million Nigerians,” Wala said.
The group urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to probe the National Assembly.The protest later turned rowdy as protesters claimed that the leadership of the National Assembly ignored them.In anger, some were seen making efforts to climb the main gate as others forced their way onto the premises. But they were repelled by security operatives who tear-gassed them.

While signing the 2018 budget, Buhari had said “the logic behind the constitutional directive that budgets should be proposed by the executive is that it is the executive that knows and defines its policies and projects. Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me.“The National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion”.

Against this background, Buhari complained that many of the cut projects are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation. Meanwhile, the Senate has urged President Buhari to immediately begin the full implementation of the budget.At its first sitting upon resumption from the Sallah break yesterday, the upper chamber condemned the protests against the National Assembly over constituency projects.

It specifically charged the president to investigate the alleged involvement of a serving minister and a state governor in the sponsorship of the protest.Senate President, Saraki, had while reading a welcome address to the senators, declared that growing internal tensions were a reflection of the economic condition of the citizenry.

“Happily, the 2018 budget has been signed by the president. We call on the Executive to expedite the release of funds for the budget implementation, so that our people can begin to see the positive impact in their lives without delay,” he said.The Senate said those who sponsored the protests were destroying the sanctity of parliament.
Lawmakers who contributed to a motion sponsored by Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue State) lamented that people in government could be sponsoring protest against the National Assembly because of the issue of constituency development projects which they said were the only government projects that cut across the country.

Gemade described the sponsors of the protests as ignorant of parliamentary operations, pointing out that no amount of blackmail would stop the National Assembly from approving money for constituency projects.According to him, unlike heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), senators now “go with cap in hand to beg ministers to finance their constituency projects. This is shameful and this has to stop.”

His position was supported by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremandu, who blamed the protest on unemployment and poverty.“This protest against constituency projects is very embarrassing. Anybody who is against constituency projects should be seen as an enemy of the state. No amount of blackmail should stop us from continuing with this constituency projects which are helping our people.”

Aita Aidoko, Kabiru Marafa and Isah Hamman Misau, supported the motion.Misau, who spoke extensively, fingered a serving governor and minister.He said the governor was from the North, while the minister hails from the South South.Saraki said the Senate would continue to educate the public on the importance of constituency projects. He added that critics would continue to disabuse the minds of Nigerians that senators receive money to execute constituency projects.

Also yesterday, a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered that hearing notices be issued and served on the National Assembly and others in a suit by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Second Vice President Monday Ubani.

According to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report, Ubani and John Nwokwu, also a lawyer, are praying for an order, compelling senators and House of Representatives members to refund N13.5 million and N10 million monthly running costs, which they allegedly collected in the last three years.The lawyers are contending that the running cost is illegal as only the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has the power to determine salaries and allowances of political office holders.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, RMAFC, Senate and the House of Representatives are the respondents.When the case was called yesterday, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Mr. J. O. Igwe, told Justice Chuka Obiozor that the court’s sheriff failed to serve the defendants with the suit in spite of being “mobilised” about three weeks ago.

Culled From Guardian

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Budget as a Tool of Underdevelopment

Budget as a Tool of Underdevelopment

Former Chairman, House Appropriation Committee, Hon Abdumumn Jibrin

SIMON KOLAWOLE LIVE

In 2011, a brilliant, fine gentleman from the south-south was elected into the Nigerian senate. He was full of hopes and dreams. At a dinner with journalist friends, he outlined his vision and spoke enthusiastically about pursuing “developmental legislative agenda”.

He would make a difference, he promised. Two months after inauguration, the senator came to see his friends in Lagos with his tail between his legs. He said in a defeated voice: “If development is this way (he pointed forward), we are facing this direction (he pointed backward). Since our inauguration, all we have been discussing is money, money, money. It is all about our individual account balances.”

I recalled this story as controversy broke out over President Muhammadu Buhari’s protest that the 2018 budget was severely distorted by the lawmakers with the reduction in allocations to priority projects and addition of over 6,000 new projects. The lawmakers also allocated nearly N140 billion to themselves which, God willing, will be disbursed to the last kobo since it is a first-line charge on the federation account. However, the lawmakers have stoutly defended themselves and sought to justify the alterations. They said the changes were meant to reflect “federal balance”. After listening to both parties, I am still inclined to join issues with the national assembly.

Let us first settle some arguments. One, the national assembly has the power of appropriation. The executive proposes and implements budgets but the legislature must first approve through appropriation. It is in the spirit of checks and balances. Two, the national assembly is not a rubber stamp. It is not as if the executive will send a budget to the legislature and they will just stamp it. Under military regimes, the executive and legislature were one. They were at various times known as the Supreme Military Council, Armed Forces Ruling Council and Provisional Ruling Council. They did everything at once. We always had the budget approved by January 1 every year.

Three, the representation function of the parliament comes into bold relief in the budgeting process. While the president is representing the whole country, legislators represent individual constituencies, and they have a responsibility to factor in the interests of their constituents —and in a way balance the national and the local. Four, the constitution empowers the national assembly to make laws for “peace, order and good government of the federation”. Appropriation offers a powerful opportunity for them to do this. I don’t think we need to be arguing over this. It is therefore logical and legal for the lawmakers to make inputs into the budget in the national interest.

In the national interest? Now, this is where the problem begins. Does the national assembly do anything in the national interest? This is where the argument starts. The parliament has three primary responsibilities: one, representation; two, lawmaking (including appropriation); and three, oversight. These powers are so awesome that if they were properly and patriotically exercised by the lawmakers, Nigeria would have been a much better place. Just imagine all the appropriations to infrastructure, education, health and water from 1999 till date; just imagine a proper parliamentary oversight function; and just imagine how Nigeria would have been transformed.

Based on my observations since 1999, I can safely conclude that the motive behind most budget alterations is anything but national interest. When Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, two-time minister of finance, said in her book, Fighting Corruption is Dangerous, that the national assembly was “bribed” with N17 billion to pass the 2015 budget, some lawmakers raised hell. They deliberately interpreted that to mean bribe was shared among lawmakers, but they knew what she was saying: the executive had to allow the legislature to add that amount to its own budget before the bill was passed. That was the deal maker. This year, lawmakers added N14.5 billion to their budget. Nothing new.

When the president sends the appropriation bill to the national assembly, committees invite chief executives and accounting officers of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to defend their proposals. This is usually at a high cost. Some sessions are televised live. Refreshments are served. Precious time is spent on budget defence. After the whole show when some form of agreements might have been reached, the budget goes to the appropriations committees which then, in a dictatorial manner, begin to alter the budgets. The figures are usually allocated arbitrarily. So why waste time and resources on useless budget defence sessions? What’s the value?

Has anyone ever wondered why the executive will propose a budget of N8.612 trillion with a crude oil benchmark of $45 per barrel and the parliament will raise the benchmark to $51 and increase the budget to N9.12 trillion? Setting a lower benchmark is a wise way of saving in the excess crude account so that when the rain comes falling — as it certainly must do cyclically — we will have something to fall back on. It is common sense to create a fine balance between the need to spend and the need to save so that we do not witness the kind of calamity that befell us between 2014 and 2017 again. A prudent parliament will always consider this fact with a sense of responsibility.

Has anyone also ever wondered why despite all the budget defence by the MDAs, the budget still comes out heavily distorted? The idea of budget defence, which usually goes on for months, is for the executive and the legislature to consider the fine details and arrive at some compromise. Budgets are prepared based on the policies and programmes of a government. The executive has its priorities and goals. So, for all those things lawmakers are unilaterally inserting into the budget, how did they do the costing? They do not execute projects so how did they arrive at those figures? What is the basis for cutting down on priority projects?

Truth be told: while the executive is not blameless, our legislators have turned budgeting to an instrument of blackmail to further personal interests. Budgeting is seen as harvest season. I don’t know if this culture still persists, but the MDAs used to be extorted by the lawmakers ahead of their budget defence in order to facilitate “smooth” passage. When Professor Fabian Osuji was minister of education in 2005, his otherwise sterling reputation was destroyed when lawmakers extorted N55 million from him for “smooth” passage of his ministry’s budget. Some of the criminals went on to become governors and some are today party executives. So it goes.

It is no secret that if the MDAs can “settle” lawmakers very well, their budgets will be increased beyond their wildest dreams. For example, an agency would propose a budget of N10 billion and the lawmakers would promise to increase it to N20 billion if they can “settle” in advance. The increase will be presented as “national interest”. That is one of the reasons the budgets are always bloated every year. They extort during budget defence, extort during oversight function and extort from contractors. In some instances, they will even insist on bringing the contractors for the projects. I don’t know if these practices have stopped but that used to be the untold story.

The lawmakers actually need to examine their consciences. They have turned the concept of separation of powers upside down. They prepare their own budgets and refuse to release the details to the public. How can you perform oversight function on your own budget? Does that make sense, fellow Nigerians? It took a courageous Senator Shehu Sani to reveal to the world that senators legally take home over N13 million a month. Up till today, the house of reps has not told us how much they take home every month. National interest indeed! The lawmakers have over the years successfully arm-twisted us into accepting the so-called constituency projects.

The bigger picture we are not seeing, however, is that as it is in Abuja, so it is in the states and local governments. We focus our attention on Aso Rock and national assembly, but these shenanigans are replicated at local level. Budgets are padded and ballooned. Non-existent projects are “funded” and money shared by those who matter. MDA executives and state lawmakers are having fun with public funds and there is nobody to question them. The controllers of public discourse in Nigeria are more interested in “true federalism” as defined by them; they deliberately ignore the bazaar going on under their noses in their states and councils. So it goes.

The underdevelopment of this country is not accidental. We cannot continue to do things this way and expect progress. At some point the political elite will have to repent. If half of the budget for education or healthcare or roads actually goes into what it is theoretically meant for, we would have overcome most of our daunting challenges by now. If leadership is driven by competence and patriotism, all the oil windfalls since 1999 would have meant something more than ballooning overhead expenditure and distorting the budget for personal benefit under the pretext of “national interest”. I hope that one day, our leaders at all levels will change their ways.

===AND FOUR OTHER THINGS====

UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY

So many things sadden me about Nigeria, and one of them just manifested in the proposed training of railway engineers in China. The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) had said it would provide scholarships for Nigerian students but, as things turned out, it is only on paper. Applicants who do not have godfathers were shocked to realise on the day of interview that only those nominated by powerful Nigerians were allowed inside. This country continues to kill the spirit of its citizens. This is why resentment and frustration set in. How do you expect these young men and women to believe in Nigeria? We run an unfair system. Depressing.

GESTAPO STYLE

Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe was arrested on Friday. The general belief is that he was picked up by the Department of State Services (DSS). Typically, DSS would neither confirm nor deny. It does not have a spokesperson. We don’t know why he was picked up; we can only speculate. This is very disturbing. If a senator can disappear in this manner, what is the hope for ordinary Nigerians? If DSS continues to operate this way, I hope this will not open the door to unexplained disappearances in Nigeria for which nobody will take responsibility. The DSS needs to modernise its mode of operation. It is one thing that scares me stiff about this Buhari administration. Alarming.

SORRY YARI

Alhaji Abdulazia Yari, the Abuja-based governor of Zamfara state, has finally told us what we knew all along — that he is not in charge of his state. Zamfara is arguably the state that has witnessed the most bloodshed in Nigeria in the last three years (it is not headline news because, frankly speaking, the politicians and their puppets cannot make a Muslim vs Christian business out of it). Yari says he is giving up his position as the chief security officer of the state. Except he refunds all the security votes he has collected since 2011 and stops collecting more henceforth, we will continue to regard him as the CSO of Zamfara. This has nothing to do with fornication. Incompetence.

AND FINALLY…

Who said “success has many fathers but failure is an orphan”? The person deserves a Nobel for wise saying, if there is any such category. After Nigeria lost to Croatia at the FIFA World Cup, I saw videos on social media showing angry fans burning the beautiful Nigerian jersey. And then we bounced back and beat Iceland on Friday — and suddenly the Super Eagles are the best thing since pounded yam with egusi and bush meat. Hearty congratulations to Ahmed Musa, the two-goal hero. Within minutes after the match, memes of Musa as the presidential candidate of APGA were already trending! More heroics and we will nominate him to be UN secretary-general. Ecstasy.

Culled from ThisDay

Presidency faults National Assembly on mutilation of 2018 budget

Presidency faults lawmakers’ claims on budget distortion

By Augustine Ehikioya, Abuja

The Presidency yesterday faulted the decision of National Assembly to distort the 2018 Budget after N270 billion allocation was made for their constituency projects.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, while N100 billion was already provided for constituency projects in the 2018 Budget proposal, the executive also allowed additional N170 billion provision for the projects from the increased oil benchmark.

He said “Sequel to the response of the National Assembly justifying its distortion of the 2018 Budget, the following clarifications have become necessary.

“Throughout the budget consideration process the executive, through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, was in touch with the National Assembly.

“The executive was approached by the National Assembly who indicated that they intended to increase the benchmark price by US$5, from US$45 to US$50. Out of the US$5 increase, the National Assembly informed the Executive that they intended to utilise US$2 (amounting to about N170 billion) for projects selected by themselves.

“They asked the Executive to suggest important projects that could be accommodated with the funds arising from the balance of US$3.

“After some consideration, the Executive was of the view that an increase in the benchmark price of crude oil to US$50 was not unrealistic, and the President decided to accept this in the spirit of compromise required for a successful budget exercise.

‘The Executive had, in that spirit, suggested that from the additional funds arising out of the US$3 increase, $1.25 from the increase should not be appropriated as expenditure but utilised to reduce the deficit in the budget.

“The Executive therefore restricted itself to submitting, for the consideration of the National Assembly, important items that could be funded from US$1.75 of the US$3 increase. NASS eventually raised the benchmark price to US$51, apparently to accommodate the additional allocations to Health and NDDC.

“The Executive is therefore surprised that with an additional sum of N170 billion available for the National Assembly to spend on constituency projects, together with the sum of N100 billion already provided for in the Budget, that the National Assembly should feel it necessary to cut allocations to important national projects, and thereby distort the Budget in order to further increase their allocation for Constituency projects. How much is enough!” he added

He said that the President’s position was clear from paragraph 12k of the President’s speech, where he said “About 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.”

Source: The Nation

Budget padding: National Assembly counters Buhari

Budget 2018: National Assembly faults Buhari’s claims

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Terhember Daka and George Opara, Abuja

• Says President Was Misinformed On Budgetary Figures
• Lawmakers’ Alterations Smack Of Greediness, Insists Presidency

The National Assembly said yesterday that the 2018 budget figures reeled out by President Muhammadu Buhari in respect of several projects were incorrect and misleading.

It declared that adjustments and reductions in the locations, costs and number of projects approved were made in order to address geo-political imbalances that came with the Executive proposal.

At a joint press conference addressed by spokespersons of the Senate, Aliu Sabi Abdullahi and his House of Representatives colleague, Abdul Razak Namdas, it was also pointed out that the introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria…”

However, the presidency yesterday insisted that the lawmakers’ alterations demonstrated greediness and self-centredness. In a statement by presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina yesterday, the presidency said the lawmakers apart from increasing the oil benchmark for lawmakers’ interest, still cut funding for essential projects.

“The Executive is therefore surprised that with an additional sum of N170 billion Naira available for the National Assembly to spend on Constituency Projects, together with the sum of N100 billion Naira, already provided for in the Budget, that the National Assembly should feel it necessary to cut allocations to important national projects, and thereby distort the Budget, in order to further increase their allocation for constituency projects,” Adesina said.

The National Assembly further asserted that the projects had to be increased in order to give a sense of belonging to every geo-political zone of the country to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command national loyalty. It insisted: “Within the context of the provisions of Sections 4, 80 and 81 of the Constitution, everything that the National Assembly has done is within its powers.”

“Furthermore, Chapter 2 of the Constitution emphasizes the need for balance, inclusivity, and equity in the distribution of national resources. The annual budget, which symbolises the distribution of these resources must reflect the aforementioned values, which we swore to uphold,” the NASS said.

Curiously, the National Assembly revealed that there was no existing contract for the construction of a second Niger Bridge.

The Assembly said: “Addressing the issue of the Second Niger Bridge project, apart from early works, as of today, there is no existing contract for the Second Niger Bridge in spite of frequent requests from the National Assembly. The N900million cut from the N10billion proposed by the Executive was deployed to fund ancillary roads that connect to the Bridge. It should again be noted that the N12.5billion and the N7.5billion appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budgets by the National Assembly were never utilized for the project.”

On the President’s claim that the National Assembly delayed in passing the Budget, the parliament noted that “although the budget was submitted in November, 2017, as at March 15, 2018 (five months and 8 days after the budget submission), Mr. President was still directing the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to compel the Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government to appear before the committees of the National Assembly to defend their respective budget. In addition, up till April (6 months after the budget submission), the Executive was still bringing new additions to the 2018 budget, which the National Assembly in good faith and in the spirit of collaboration and harmonious working relationship accepted.

“More importantly, the 2017 budget was signed into law on June 5, 2017 and by the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution, which defines the Financial Year as “any period of 12 months beginning on the first day of January in any year, or other date as the National Assembly may prescribe” – the 2017 budget lapsed on the 5th of June 2018. This same provision is replicated in the 2017 Appropriation Act,” it said.

On the reductions made in some aspects of the budget, the National Assembly declared that, “the figures given by the President as amounts of the reductions made by the National Assembly were unduly exaggerated, as we did not make any substantial reduction on any project to the extent of affecting its implementation.

“It was stated that the legislature made cuts amounting to N347 billion which were meant for 4,700 projects. Again, these reductions of N347 billion were made from low priority areas to higher priority areas to support the generation of employment for our youth by MSMEs. We took the decision to reduce the funds in some areas in order to ensure balance and equity in the spread and utilization of our national funds,” the Assembly said.

Giving the exact detail of the projects where deductions were made, the lawmakers disclosed that the counterpart funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/Ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Express Road and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project, was reduced by only N3, 956,400,290 -which represents only 1.78 per cent of the total N222, 569,335,924 submitted by the President. This left these projects with N218, 612,935,634 that cannot negatively affect their implementation. This obviously contradicts the claim that these projects lost “an aggregate of N11.5 billion,” they submitted.

Specifically, the National Assembly said “the counterpart funding for 3050mw Mambilla Hydropower Project was reduced from N8.5billion to N8.2billion (a reduction of N300million); the construction of the Second Niger Bridge including access roads phases’ 2a and 2b in Anambra and Delta states and other projects in the South East were reduced from N10billion to N9.1billion (a reduction of N900million).”

It continued: “The construction of Bodo-Bonny Road with a bridge across the Opobo channel in Rivers State was reduced from N10billion to N8.7billion (a reduction of N1.3billion) while funding for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced from N20billion to N18billion (a reduction of N2billion).”

The Assembly also disclosed that it increased the aggregate funding for the East-West Road from N11, 285,000,000 to N12, 085,000,000 because it realised the strategic importance of the road to the entire oil producing areas of the country and the fact that the road project has lingered for too long.

On the issue of the 104 Unity Schools across the nation and the claim by the President that N3billion was cut from their funding, the National Assembly disclosed that it actually provided an additional N3.7billion more for meal subsidies in these 104 Unity Schools.

Faulting President Buhari’s remarks on the alleged reduction of the funding for the construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport, the lawmakers said:
“it was claimed that the provision for construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira and that this will further delay the completion of this critical project.

“However, for the avoidance of doubt, it is necessary to again clarify that during the budget defense and oversight processes, the National Assembly discovered that out of the N2billion contract for the Enugu Terminal Building, N1.7billion had already been paid to the contractor. And what is left to complete this project is just N300million. Hence, the National Assembly approved N500million for the project, which is even N200million more than was required.”

Source: The Guardian

How National Assembly mutilated 2018 budget – Buhari

President Buhari’s speech at the signing of 2018 budget into law

SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE SIGNING INTO LAW, THE 2018 APPROPRIATION BILL, PRESIDENTIAL VILLA, ABUJA,

PROTOCOLS

I would like to thank the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as all the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, for passing the 2018 Appropriation Bill, after seven months.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. It is in this 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Such examples of projects from which cuts were made are as follows:

a. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

d. The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of 7.45 billion Naira.

e. The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by 3 billion Naira at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.

f. The provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme was cut by 8.7 billion Naira.

g. At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of 5 billion Naira was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.

h. The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of 14.5 billion Naira.

i. The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira which will further delay the completion of this critical project.

j. The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from 5 billion Naira to 3.4 billion Naira.

k. 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.

13. Another area of concern is the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of 73.96 billion Naira. Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance.

14. An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by 14.5 billion Naira, from 125 billion Naira to 139.5 billion Naira without any discussion with the Executive.

15. Notwithstanding the above stated observations, I have decided to sign the 2018 Budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.

16. However, it is my intention to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which I hope the National Assembly will be able to expeditiously consider.

17. I am pleased with the success recorded in the implementation of the 2017 Budget. A total sum of 1.5 trillion Naira has been released for the implementation of capital projects during the 2017 fiscal year. In response to this and other policy measures implemented, we have observed significant improvement in the performance of the Nigerian economy.

18. To achieve the laudable objectives of the 2018 Budget, we will work very hard to generate the revenues required to finance our projects and programmes. The positive global oil market outlook, as well as continuing improvement in non-oil revenues, make us optimistic about our ability to finance the budget.

19. However, being a deficit budget, the Borrowing Plan will be forwarded to the National Assembly shortly. I crave the indulgence of the National Assembly for a speedy consideration and approval of the Plan.

20. The 2018 Budget I have just signed into law provides for aggregate expenditures of 9.12 trillion Naira, which is 22.6% higher than the 2017 Appropriation. Further details of the approved budget will be provided by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.

21. I thank the Ministers of Budget and National Planning, the Budget Office of the Federation, and everyone who worked tirelessly and sacrificed so much to bring us to this day. However, the job is only partly done.

22. I am sure you will remain committed to advancing our Change Agenda, not only in the preparation of the national budget but also in ensuring its effective implementation.

I thank you and may God bless Nigeria.

(NAN)

Court declares Jibrin’s suspension illegal, orders Reps to pay him accrued salaries

Court voids Jibrin’s suspension, orders Reps to pay him accrued salaries

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Federal High Court in Abuja on on Thursday voided the 180-legislative-day suspension imposed by the House of Representatives on a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin,‎ on September 28, 2016.

Delivering judgment in the suit filed by Jibrin to challenge the sanction imposed on him, Justice John Tsoho, declared the suspension of the legislator as unconstitutional and ordered the lower legislative chamber to pay him all the salary due to him for the period he was unjustly suspended.

“The suspension was an interruption of his earning which will be automatically restored especially when it has been decided that the action was a nullity by virtue of granting prayers 1 and 3 of the originating summons.

“When an action is declared nullity it is deemed that it never happened.”

Although Jibrin had since resumed his legislative duties, he was unrelenting in prosecuting his fundamental human rights enforcement suit challenging his suspension.

His suspension was a fallout of his campaign which began in July 2016 demanding the removal of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and other principal officers of the House over allegation that they padded the 2016 budget with about N40bn.

He had reported the alleged corrupt act to the various law enforcement agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and the police.

The House of Representatives considered this “a campaign of calumny against the House and its leaders” for which he was suspended for 180 legislative days.

But ruling on Thursday, Justice Tsoho agreed with Jibrin’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), in holding that the lawmaker’s act act was a lawful one, and suspending him because of it was an attempt to gag him.

“There is no better conclusion that the plaintiff was carrying out the mandate imposed on members by Chapter 7 (7.5) of the Code of Conduct for Honourable Members adopted on November 4, 2004,” the judge ruled.

Source: The Punch

National Assembly members are unarmed robbers, Obasanjo

N’Assembly members are a bunch of unarmed robbers – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday in Ibadan said that the bogus earnings of National Assembly members portrayed them as a “bunch of unarmed robbers .”

Obasanjo, spoke at a public presentation of a book written by Prof . Mark Nwagwu , titled , ‘I am Kagara , I Weave the Sands of Sahara,’ in Ibadan , the Oyo State capital .

He also called on the Federal Government to respect the agreement it signed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities , saying that the Federal Government put itself in a corner by entering into the agreement without full consultation.

He said , “ Government allows itself to be stampeded into signing agreement particularly when one group or the other withdraws it services and goes on strike. After the agreement has been signed , without full consultation within government , implementation becomes an issue .

“But an agreement is an agreement whoever the agent is that signed that agreement on your behalf , you are bound by it. You may now have to renegotiate to have a new agreement but the agreement earlier signed remains an agreement .

“When the university teachers go on strike, there is an agreement ; and when doctors go on strike , there will be a special agreement . And when the universities teachers see that the agreement reached with the doctors is different from theirs, they go on strike and this is bad for our economy .

“The way we are going about spending all our revenue to pay overheads , we will not develop. And we will have ourselves to blame . Ninety per cent of revenue is used to pay overheads , allowances , salaries and not much is left for capital development . In a situation like that, we have to rethink .

“It is even worse for the National Assembly. They will abuse me again but I will never stop talking about them . They are a bunch of unarmed robbers .

“They are one of the highest paid in the world where we have 75 per cent of our people living in abject poverty . They will abuse me tomorrow and if they don’t , maybe they are sleeping . The behaviour and character of the National Assembly should be condemned and roundly condemned .”

At the event , a former Minister of Education , Mrs . Oby Ezekwesili, called for positive attitudinal changes for national development.

She said the book would serve as a tool for the country to examine the extent to which it had lost her values and culture.

Source: The Punch