*Approves N99.1bn for Amnesty Programmes
By Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA – THE Senate has passed N4.485 trillion budget for 2011, which was N77 billion higher than the N4.407 amended budget forwarded by President Goodluck Jonathan to Senate.
It also approved the sum of N99.1 billion for the Federal Government’s amnesty programme going on in the Niger Delta.
President Jonathan had on Tuesday submitted an amendment proposal that which include N387, 824, 288, 743 for statutory transfers. N495, 096, 682, 115 for debt service and N2, 401, 330, 677, 943 is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure while the sum of N1, 122, 800, 651, 781 is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure for the year ending December 31, 2011.
But the Senate in passing the budget made remarkable changes to the budget by jerking up the entire proposal except debt servicing.
It then passed the sum of N417, 824, 288, 743 for statutory transfers, N495, 096, 682, 115 for debts service and N2, 4254, 065, 124, 967 for recurrent expenditure, leaving the balance of N1, 146, 750, 553, 167 for capital projects.
Senate President, David Mark commenting after a record passage of the budget tasked the executive to fully implement the 2011 budget.
He explained that the reduction in the budget will ensure the full implementation of the 2011 appropriation act, stressing that Nigerians are tired of the series of bad budget implementations.
He said, “I thank you all for the expeditious passage of the amendment to the bill. I urged the executive arm that now that we have passage the budget, they should ensure that they implement it to the full. The idea of leaving out some projects should not happen this time around.”
Before the passage of the budget, some Senators raised questions regarding the reductions in the initial budget of N4.9 trillion to N4.485 trillion.
But in response to the question, the Chairman, Senate Committee Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore, said that it was meant to reduce the domestic borrowing components to ensure growth of the economy.
He said, “The Senate will recall that the 2011 Appropriation Bill was passed into law by the National Assembly on March 16 in the sum of N4.971 trillion. The decision to approve a budget of this magnitude was in the opinion of the National Assembly that the incoming government needs to improve the infrastructures-roads, power, rails, etc.
“The President assented to the Bill. However, the Executive observed that the deficits projected in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly needs to be reduced by minimizing the domestic borrowing components to give the economy a breathing space.
“Consequently, Mr President in a letter dated May 23 requested for amendment to the 2011 budget by the National Assembly. The Senate considered the proposed amendment and referred it immediately to the Appropriation Committee for legislative actions.
“In response to the above, the Senate Committee on Appropriation in collaboration with the House counterpart and the Federal Ministry of Finance reviewed the budget downward in line with the agreed benchmarks.”
Break down of the amended budget shows additional N5 billion for minimum wage for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), while N5.5 billion as Nigeria’s contribution to international organizations and N13.1 billion is for external financial obligations.
The budget also include N1.6 billion for accommodation for incoming legislators in the seventh session of the National Assembly, plus N10 billion for logistics support for the 2011 elections.
Further breakdown shows that N17 billion is for stipends and allowance, N35.722 billion is for re-integration of Niger Delta ex-militants, plus N17.524 for the 2010 arrears for re-integration of transformed Niger Delta ex-militants.
The breakdown also include N1.947 to fund operations cost of the programme and another N6.5 billion is for 2010 arrears of re-insertion/transition safety allowance for 20, 192 transformed ex-militants.