BY TORDUE SALEM
The overhead component of the N4.2trillion budget as proposed by the Presidency was increased by N700billion by the National Assembly, “because of the exigencies of the time,” spokesman for the House of Representatives, Rep. Eseme Eyiboh, said yesterday.
The spokesman of the Green Chamber explained that the sundry exigencies of the time with security as key, which necessitated the jerk up on the budget, included fresh threats from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, to blow up oil installations in the Niger Delta and some capitals in the country.
Mr. Eyioboh recalled that the House had plans to dump the budget because of the failure of 31 key establishments to lay their estimates, but reneged on the plan to avert another round of blackmail from the public.
“We said any agency in breach of the law regarding the submission of their budget proposals will be punished, but we decided to change our minds, because you know that we are vulnerable to attacks from the public. We said we were not going to pass that budget, but we passed it because if we did not pass it, the public would say we did not pass it, because we did not get tickets. There would be so many stories of blackmail,” he said.
The House of Representatives and the Senate had, two weeks ago, threatened to suspend the entire 2011 budget if 31 non-remitting agencies did not present their budget proposal in one week.
The House had alleged that 31 government agencies were yet to submit their budget proposals for appropriation purposes.
The N4.2 trillion 2011 budget proposal had suffered a deficit of N1.3trn despite the rising cost of crude oil(it now sells at over $120 pb) and funds generated by non-remitting agencies of government.
The House also threatened sanctions against those 31 agencies including the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for refusing to comply with the Fiscal Responsibility Act which mandated them to submit their budget estimates to the National Assembly.
Reviewing the level of work done by the House Committees on the processing of the 2011 budget bill, the lawmakers expressed disappointment over what they called the consistent refusal of the 31 agencies to comply with the law.