NASS passes N4.987trn 2013 budget

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*Jerks budget by N63bn
*Warns against poor implementation
*Cuts off funds for SEC
*Extends 2012 budget to April 2013
* Senate uncovers fictitious projects in budget

By OKEY NDIRIBE, EMMAN OVUAKPORIE, HENRY UMORU & JOSEPH ERUNKE

ABUJA — THE National Assembly, yesterday, suppressed agitation against executive non-implementation of the 2012 budget and passed the 2013 budget of the Federal Government, albeit with a N63 billion increase to the N4.924 trillion proposal submitted by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The passage nonetheless, the battle line with the executive remained with the zero allocation accorded the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, upon reservations of the administration’s failure to adopt its resolution demanding the dismissal of SEC’s Director-General, Ms. Arunma Oteh.

In passing the budget, the National Assembly adopted $79 as the benchmark for crude oil price, though it adopted the executive proposal of crude oil production of 2.53 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N160 to a US dollar. President Jonathan in his proposal had requested crude oil price to be fixed at $75 per barrel.

The passage of the budget by the two Houses, Vanguard learnt last night, was upon serious lobbying by the executive and the last minute moderation by some legislators especially in the House of Representatives who had mobilized to truncate the earlier promise of delivering the budget before year’s end.

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided in the Senate and the Deputy Speaker of the House, Chief Emeka Ihedioha who chaired the House, in their separate remarks, however, brought the angst of the legislators to the fore as they lamented the poor implementation of the 2012 budget.

Remarkably, the National Assembly extended the time frame for the implementation of the capital side of the 2012 budget until April 2013.

File photo: PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN LAYING THE 2013 BUDGET PROPOSAL BEFORE THE JOINT SESSION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY IN ABUJA ON WEDNESDAY (10/10/12).  STATE HOUSE PHOTO

File photo: PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN LAYING THE 2013 BUDGET PROPOSAL BEFORE THE JOINT SESSION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY IN ABUJA ON WEDNESDAY (10/10/12). STATE HOUSE PHOTO

Emodi’s intervention
The decision by the members to pass the budget, it was learnt, followed serious consideration of the pleas of the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi who many of the legislators considered in toning down their opposition. Senator Emodi was at the head of executive trouble shooting missions to the two Houses during the consideration of the budget.

The reservations of the legislators nonetheless, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday hailed the lawmakers for the speedy consideration of the budget, saying it was a loud commentary on the maturity of the leadership of the two houses.

An enthused Emodi also said it was a bold declaration of the inspired leadership in the two houses and maturity of  members of the National Assembly.

“By the early passage of this budget, the Executive and the  Legislature have indeed made a joint statement that they are truly partners in governance and are increasingly taking steps to place Nigeria on a path of economic growth and prosperity,” Senator Emodi told newsmen in the National Assembly, yesterday.

In the 2013 budget, N387,976,000,000 was set for statutory transfers while N591,764,000,000 went for debt service just as N2,386,024,770,349 was earmarked for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure while the balance of N1,621,477,655,252 was left for capital expenditure.

Under the capital expenditure, Works got the lion share with N168,173,800,000, followed by Water Resources that was allocated N84,228,166,366 while Power got N73,159,378,866.

Senate uncovers fictitious projects
In the report submitted to the Senate by the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance on the 2013 Appropriation Bill, the committee noted the presence of fictitious projects.

“If the painful sight of abandoned projects in Nigeria will be a thing of the past, then on-going projects must be properly defined.
“A situation where projects not found in 2011 and 2012 budgets are found in 2013 as on-going projects is very misleading. In the same vein, a situation where uncompleted projects are not included in the budget of succeeding years is wasteful.”

Warns against slow, non full implementation
The Senate also observed that “the Auditor-General who serves as a check to government accounts within and outside the country is left with meagre amount that can barely sustain his office.”

It regretted that conceptualisation of the budget by the executive was still a problem that it must face, adding: “Conceptualisation of the budget by the executive is still a big issue that we must confront as the representatives of the people. There should be veritable template for budgeting especially on capital projects. If the painful sight of abandoned projects in Nigeria will be a thing of the past, then on-going projects must be properly defined.”

Extends 2012 budget to April
The same proposals were adopted by the House of Representatives following the earlier harmonization by the appropriation committees of the two chambers.

The House in its report decided to roll over unspent capital funds till April next year and decided not to approve funds for SEC under the leadership of Ms Oteh.

“Notwithstanding the provisions of section 19 of the Finance (Control and Management) Act, 2004 or section 1 (I) and (iii) of the 2012 Appropriation Act or any other finance law for the time being in force, all unutilized, unexecuted and unimplemented capital expenditure component of the 2012 Appropriation Act shall be rolled over and shall be construed to form part of the 2013 Appropriation Act, provided that the unutilised capital expenditure component of 2012 Budget shall lapse on the 12th day of April 2013.”

Cuts off funds for SEC
Ruling out funding for SEC upon its misgivings on the executive’s failure to heed its resolution on the sack of Oteh, the House report read: “All revenue to SEC, however described including all fees received, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally and externally generated revenue shall not be spent by the Securities and Exchange Commission for recurrent or capital purposes or for any other matter, nor liabilities therein incurred except with prior appropriation and approval by the National Assembly.”

However, Communication adviser to SEC, Mr. Obi Adindu, last night said the capital market regulatory body would not comment on the development.

The deputy speaker of the House, who presided over the session explained that the decision of the chamber to brush away perceived frictions with the executive and pass the budget was in line with the promise given by the House that it would pass the budget before the end of December.

In line with the submissions of the Deputy Speaker, House spokesman, Hon Zakari Mohammed noted that though the House had some reservations about the budget, it had to pass it in fulfillment of its promise and in the general interest of the masses.

Meanwhile, the Senate following a motion by Senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma- Egba, adjourned sittings to January 16, 2013.

Emodi hails quick passage
Hailing the passage of the budget yesterday, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters said the quick passage was a pivotal moment in the history of the nation.

Speaking with journalists yesterday, Senator Emodi noted that the development was a confirmation that all is well between the National Assembly and the Executive, adding: “This development is a confirmation of my position that harmonious working relationship exists between both arms of government and has put paid to speculations that there is rift in their relationship.”

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