Approves N7bn confab vote, as education gets lion share
BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
ABUJA— THE Senate, yesterday, passed the 2014 Appropriation Bill of N4,695,190,000,000 into law and advised the executive to implement the budget as passed.
Out of the total budget passed for the 2014 fiscal year, which is N52,230 billion higher than the initial amount of N4,642,960,000,000 proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, N2,454,887,566,702 was for recurrent expenditure, N1,119,614,631,407 for capital expenditure, N408,687,801,891 for statutory transfer and N712 billion for debt service.
Also in the budget is N268,370 billion, which is for the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, SURE-P, a component of the budget, which did not form part of the aggregate budget figure of N4,642,960,000,000 as proposed by the executive, which was however captured in the final compilation of the Bill.
The Joint Senate Committee on Appropriation stated that in preparing the details of the 2014 Appropriation Bill, the Committee adopted a benchmark price of $77.50 per barrel of crude oil, the executive proposal of crude oil production of 2.3883 million barrels per day, and an exchange rate of N160 to US$1.
A breakdown of the budget indicated that education got the highest figure of N373,532,095,037, closely followed by defence, which got N314,347,339,871, while Police Formation and Commands was allocated N295,561,812,085.
Before the consideration and passage of the budget, the opposition party senators, comprising mainly the All Progressives Congress, APC, had voted against its consideration, but the Senate President David Mark ruled against their opposition.
The clause by clause consideration of the bill during the plenary was going smoothly until they got to the N7 billion earmarked for the ongoing National Conference.
APC Senators attempted to frustrate the approval of the budget for the conference, but it took the maturity and tact of Senator Mark for the clause to pass through.
Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe had informed the Senate that during the debate on the budget, Senators condemned the N2 billion allocated to the entire North-East for capital expenditure, where it was agreed that something should be done to increase the amount, yet it was still the same in the passed budget.
However, Senator Mark appealed to him that something would be done to address the imbalance.
It will be recalled that President Jonathan had on December 19, 2013, through the Co-coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, laid before both chambers of the National Assembly the 2014 Appropriation Bill, containing the estimates of revenue and expenditure of the federation for the 2014 fiscal year.
The Senate subsequently debated the general principles of the Bill and read it the second time on January 23 after which it was referred to the Committees on Appropriations and Finance for further legislative action.
They jointly referred the schedules of the bill to the appropriate Standing Committees on money bills in line with Order 92(4) (a) of the Senate Standing Order.
The Chairman, Senate Joint Committees on Appro-priation and Finance, Senator Ahmed Maccido, said: “The 2014 to 2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, upon which the 2014 budget was based, just like the previous editions, will require being refined and re-tooled in procedure and process.”
According to him, “a major issue here is in the planning that required the engagement processes with all stakeholders which will have added effective value to the budget process, with obvious multiplier effect on the economy.
“The drop in oil production volume as reflected in the budget estimates of the past two years remains a disturbing phenomenon. The obvious reason has been traced to the obstruction to oil production as a result of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.”
The committees also decried the inability of ministries, departments and agencies to fully implement budgets. According to the committees, the development, which has become a recurring decimal was becoming worrisome.
Senator Bukola Saraki observed that the number of daily crude oil production was not indicated in the budget.
Although the Senate President did not comment on it, Senator Maccido told journalists that whatever is surplus would go to the Excess Crude Account.
Commending the joint committees for their efforts, the Senate President urged the executive arm of government to ensure full implementation of the budget.
With the passage at the Senate, the budget Bill now awaits the concurrence of the House of Representatives before it is sent to the President for assent.