Nigeria : President reviews and cuts 2008 Budget

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Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has slashed the 2008 national budget by 181 billion naira, according to a bill for the amendment of the year’s appropriation he submitted to the National Assembly Wednesday.

The budget was slashed from N2.748 trillion to N2,567,489,865,645.

The Bill, read to Senators at the day’s plenary session by the Senate President, David Mark, proposed several amendments that the President wanted the National Assembly to effect on the 2008 Budget.

Of the N2.567 trillion now proposed by Yar’Adua, N162,570,000,000 will be for statutory transfers while N372,200,000,000 was earmarked for debt service.

The sum of N1,318,675,704,987 was voted for Recurrent Expenditure in the new proposal just as the sum of N714,044,160,658 was voted as contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure.

With respect to the capital expenditure, the transportation sector got the highest allocation of N103,872,875,313 followed by the Energy sector which got N120,793,984,485.

The agricultural sector was next with a total vote of N97,626,005,667 just as the Health sector was allocated with the sum of N50,166,696,310.

The Federal Capital Territory was given the sum of N46,058,110,000 while education got N47,981,787,899.

This sharply contrasts with the capital expenditure votes earlier approved in the original 2008 Appropriation Bill.

In that Bill, Agriculture and Water Resources had 9 billion naira; Federal Capital Territory 11 billion naira, Health 5 billion naira, Interior 10 billion naira , 15 billion naira was appropriated for the Science and Technology sector while Transportation got 43.5 billion naira. The National Assembly was given 4 billion naira.

On Recurrent Expenditure, the Ministry of Interior got the largest vote of
249,144,661,334 naira while Education got 167,156,219,707 naira.

Defence was given 143,172,527,047 naira, Health 89,185,498,737 naira.

The National Assembly got a total recurrent expenditure vote of 97,325,333,760 naira and 15,597,453,761 naira for capital expenditures.

In a letter forwarding the amendment Bill to the Assembly, Yar’Adua said: “Consistent with the seven-point agenda of our administration, the 2008 Appropriation Amendment Bill focuses on the provision of infrastructure, particularly in the Energy and Transportation sectors and the FCT; as well as Food Security, Defence and Security.

“I firmly believe that this targeted spending proposal will further stimulate economic growth and improve service delivery to our people within the context of a stable macroeconomic environment.”

Following the disagreement between the President and the National Assembly over the figures earlier passed, an agreement was reached by the two groups to the effect that an amendment bill be sent for passage into law.

The National Assembly had passed a total budget figure of 2.898 trillion naira which the President returned with many complaints.

The figures were later reduced by the National Assembly to 2.748 trillion naira but this was still unacceptable to the President who felt that some figures were overbloated with respect to some ministries and government agencies.

Prominent among the issues raised by Yar’Adua was the 78 per cent increase in the Recurrent Expenditure of the National Assembly which Yar’Adua described as too high.

“While appreciating the reasons for some increases, especially due to the effort to ensure that no National Assembly Committee seeks financial assistance of any Ministry, Department and or Agency (MDA) before embarking on any oversight function, I still believe that an increase of 78 per cent is too high. In this respect , I will like to advise that the overall increase is kept to no more than 20 per cent,” Yar’ Adua stated.

On the general increase of 285.3 billion naira to the Capital budget of the executive arm of government, the President said: “My proposal here is that all the amount realised from the increase in the benchmark price from my proposed US$ 53.8 3 per barrel to the National Assembly’s figure of US$ 59 per barrel should be used wholly to eliminate the proposed deficit in the 2008 Budget.

“This will not only make the 2008 Budget balanced and more realistic but will also create more room and opportunity for more informed capital spending especially on infrastructure under the supplementary budget that I intend to submit to you very soon.

“This will also provide both the executive and the legislature with an opportuni ty for greater dialogue and consultation, in order to arrive at, and agree on, capital spending priorities, well before I formally submit the supplementary budget proposals for your consideration.”

The President also noted that the National Assembly had increased the Federal Government Independent Revenue to 100 billion naira, saying: “As the basis for such an increase is not yet available, it is difficult to appraise it. It is quite debatable that such an increase can be achieved within a single year.”

Regarding the increases on the budgetary allocations to the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT), the President said: “I would want the 21.5 billion naira added to the recurrent vote of the FMOT of which I am informed, 18 billion is for the F ederal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), to be removed.

“This is because we have concerns about the executive capacity of this agency as well as the procedure adopted for such an increase.” Panapress .

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