…says Covid-19 was responsible for extension of 2020 capital budget implementation to March next year
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Contemporary harsh economic realities were responsible for the increase in the 2021 budget from the initial proposal of N13.08 trillion to N13.58 trillion, the Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu has said.
The parliamentarian also explained that the House was conscious of the yearnings of Nigerians and as a result reflected that in the approval of N4.125 trillion for capital expenditures.
It will be recalled that both chambers of the National Assembly in a special session on Monday passed the 2021 Appropriation Bill into law with an upward review that showed a difference of N588. 027 billion from the N13.08 trillion presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 8, 2020, before a joint session of the parliament.
Detailing the legislative inputs on the budget proposal with Journalists in Abuja, Kalu who is also the chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs disclosed that the approved extension for the implementation of 2020 capital budget was necessitated by the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the extension was essentially to meet up with the lost time.
“As you know, on the 8th of October, the President laid the budget before the joint session of the House and the Senate and that budget had N13.08 trillion presented before us.
“What we passed was N13.58 trillion. It’s an increase from what the President laid before us and the realities we found on the ground made us push it to what we finally approved today (Monday). The House has approved N4.125 trillion on capital expenditure, N5.641 trillion on recurrent expenditure as well as N3.324 trillion is for Debt Service, N5.641 trillion on debt services.
“The House has also recognized that it’s important to have statutory transfers and N496.528 billion has been approved for that. This is to show our commitment to Nigerians that this budget is here to stay. It is also important to know that we benchmarked the budget on $40 per barrel knowing full well that our major source of income revenue is oil and gas.
“As you are aware on Thursday (last week) we were approached by the executive to shape the implementation timeline of the 2020 budget from the end of December to about March of the coming year. The reason has been that the impact of the COVID-19 made it difficult for them to actually implement the budget of 2020 the way they ought to and that is the reality on the ground.
“The House was actually impressed that the MDAs were able to raise this complain that if we go by the 31st December of the implementation calendar of the 2020 budget the 75% of the fund allocated for implementation will be coming back to the treasury which is not good for the implementation of things they proposed in the budget. The implementation of capital expenditure we have to give an extension of about 90 days to enable them to meet up with their target”.
The lawmaker who represents Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State also appealed to President Muhamadu Buhari to expressly assent to the Appropriation Bill for early implementation.
“Nigerians should be proud of their parliament. We are not just talking the talk but we’re walking the talk. Once again we have passed the ball to the court of the executive and we want them to do what is the right thing to do which is giving assent to this piece of legislation which they proposed to us.
“Beyond that, this is the time to call on the executive to make sure that when we pass a budget, you back it up with funds to avoid an extension of implementation programme of economic agenda of this nation because if you have an early cash backing to the budget, I can assure you that the implementation will follow the calendar that we laid out.
“But if we draw up the calendar that runs from January to December and it’s just the calendar that is not given life to with the cash backing that is expected, it means an exercise in futility”, Kalu explained.