…Hold talks to resolve grey areas
…As Osinbajo gives 2 conditions for assent
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA— As the nation eagerly awaits the take-off of the 2017 budget, more than half way into the fiscal year, the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly made last minute attempts, last night, to salvage the document by sorting out areas of disagreement.
The meeting between the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly to hammer out the grey areas in the budget was underway at press time.
According to impeccable sources, the presidency, which prepared the budget, is riled that the leadership of the National Assembly unilaterally introduced more than 400 ‘strange projects’ into the budget before belatedly passing it last month.
The said projects, Vanguard understands, are mostly roads, health centres, recreational centres, water and electricity schemes, which are under state and local governments that were never evaluated, designed or included by the Presidency in the budget.
At the same time, the presidency is concerned that the NASS inexplicably slashed allocations to key federal agencies and projects and added them to its budget, raising it from N115 billion to N125 billion at the time of economic hardship without considering the impact on other Nigerians.
The Presidency is also said to be worried that the NASS jerked up the budget by N143 billion without explaining where the additional cash would be derived from, saying the ‘distortions’ would adversely affect the implementation of the budget.
A top presidency official, who spoke to Vanguard last night, said the extraneous items introduced by the NASS into the 2017 budget would have an adverse effect on the generality of Nigerians, if not expunged.
“These illegal insertions into the budget presented to them by President Muhammadu Buhari last year, do not in any way indicate that they were done for purely altruistic reasons. From the look of things, it is clear to us that the projects were added for pecuniary and political reasons and they cannot help to advance the cause of the ordinary man in the society.
“How can state and local government projects that do not have designs and cost be inserted into a national budget by those who will still turn round tomorrow to blame the executive of non-implementation of the budget, if assented to by the President in the form it was transmitted?” the source queried last night.
Osinbajo gives 2 conditions for assent
A top official of the administration confirmed to Vanguard that although Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was eager to assent to the appropriation bill to “move the country forward,” he could only do so on two major conditions: that NASS would not insist on the full implementation of the “imported 400 projects” and would not also accuse the executive of not implementing the budget in full.
It will be recalled that the Presidency proposed a budget of N7.3 trillion in December 2016 but the NASS jerked it to N7.44 trillion.
But Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, defended the increase of the budget by N143 billion, saying that it would take care of vital projects, such as the second runway for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and others.
Lawan told State House correspondents that the new projects would be funded by the difference in the N42.5 oil bench mark proposed by the executive and the N44.5 passed by NASS.