2016 Budget: National Assembly Transmits Details to Executive

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has commended Nigerians for their patience and understanding over the delay in approving the 2016 budget.

Jubrin gave the commendation while addressing newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja shortly after submitting the detail of the budget to the Clerk of the National Assembly on behalf of the Joint Appropriation Committee of the assembly.

He said that the clerk had been mandate to transmit the detail of the Appropriation Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The national assembly sent the budget to the president about three weeks, but he refused assent, demanding the detail of the changes the legislature made on it.

Jibrin said it was important to reiterate that it took the committees extra weeks to get the details ready.

According to him, it is not because there is anything untoward going on but rather, for us to correct all the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding in the document submitted to us in December, 2015.

"Being the most important economic policy tool of government, the budget provides a comprehensive statement of our priorities as a nation.

"And, as representatives of the people, the National Assembly remains the appropriate place to ensure that the detail of such a document best match our national goals and aspirations.

"Therefore, what we have been doing in these past few weeks is to balance the projections for revenue against the estimates for expenditure based on the reality of our situation today," he said.

Jibrin, however, said that the task was made ``very difficult’’ by the sloppy manner in which the 2016 Appropriation Bill was prepared by the executive.

He stated that many of the officials who came before the various committees practically disowned the inputs from their own departments and ministries.

According to him, in most instances, and across several agencies, the bill that was initially presented to the committees failed in many respects to connect with the policy thrust of the government and the needs of the people.

"That is aside the fact that most of the figures simply did not just add up. It was one of the most controversial budgets that ever came to the National Assembly from the executive.

"Fortunately, President Muhammadu Buhari, who we must commend for showing leadership, intervened and that helped in resolving what had become a serious logjam.

"Some officials in the executive branch have also been removed from their duty posts because of these glaring lapses.

"That happened because the president took direct responsibility and got involved in the process, not only to ensure synergy between the executive and the legislature, but so that we can arrive at a budget that is implementable," he said.

The committee chairman, however, stressed that it was the first time Nigeria would transit from the ruling political party to the opposition, adding that ``we therefore believe that the executive will learn from the mistakes of this year’’.

He commended the leadership of the national assembly and members of the committees ``who had to endure sleepless nights, especially in recent weeks’’.

"To the extent that the budget drafting phase is a long process, the committee stage provides the most significant opportunity for members of the public, including the media and civil society organizations to make contributions.

"We have taken into account all shades of opinions in arriving at the breakdown which is now with the executive," he said.

According to Jibrin, now that the 2016 budget has been passed, our next role is to add value to the process through legislative oversight functions that enable us to ensure adherence to priorities.

This, he said, would take place while monitoring effective allocation of resources.

He urged the president to abide strictly with provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which stipulates that the appropriation bill be presented early.

He said that presenting the bill early would provide sufficient time for interactive sessions between the executive and the legislature before the commencement of committee hearings.

"That way, some of the controversies that dogged this year's budget will be avoided," he advised.

FG Assures of Effective Implementation
In a related development, the Federal Government on Wednesday assured of effective implementation of the 2016 budget in order to achieve accelerated development in the country.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, gave the assurance when he received the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Micheal Zenner in Abuja.

A statement issued by Charles Dafe, the Director of Information in the ministry, noted that Udoma had disclosed some blueprint of Federal Government to ensure effective implementation.

The statement quoted the minister as saying ``our 2016 budget will be well-managed; on the expenditure side, we are taking measures to ensure the release of funds for capital projects and the projects will be properly monitored.

``This is to ensure that the funds are efficiently utilised toward economic development.

``On our planned N1.8 trillion borrowing for infrastructure development, we have started discussions with our local banks and international financial institutions like the World Bank and China Exim Bank, among others.

``Our budget crux is targeted at import substitution and export promotion.''

The minister commended the German Government over the plan to assist the nation in rebuilding the insurgents’ ravaged North Eastern geo-political zone and the development of the agricultural sector.

He said that the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would prioritise agriculture so that Nigeria would be self-sufficient in food production.

Earlier, Zenner had told the minister that Germany would provide 13 million Euros to support the rehabilitation of the North East and in polio eradication, as well as the promotion of solar energy.

The envoy also said that Germany would assist Nigeria to attain self-sufficiency in rice and potato production through a loan package.

The ambassador explained that the loan would be jointly funded on 50-50 basis by Nigerian and German governments.