Buhari Signs Nigeria’s Longest Delayed Budget, Says Implementation Difficult

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday finally assented to what has been described as one Appropriation Bill that took the longest time in the back-office, even as he reeled out a litany of reasons why implementing the budget could be an arduous task for his administration.

The N9.12tr 2018 spending plan signed into law, is 22.6% higher than that of 2017.

Before now, the budget that took the longest time coming, according to an infographic by civic society group- BudgIT was that of 2014, which was signed by then President Goodluck Jonathan on May 24 that year; followed by that of his predecessor- late President Umar Yar’Adua on April 22, 201.

In the infographic titled: “How long is too long to pass the Nigerian budget, BudgIT noted that so far, the earlier time a budget has been signed in Nigeria since the May 29, 1999 return of civilian democracy was that of 2006 that was signed by then President Olusegun Obasanjo on February 22.

Speaking at the signing ceremony at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, recalled that he submitted the budget proposal on November 7, 2017, with the hope “that the legislative review process would be quick, so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year.  The importance of this predictability cannot be overemphasized.

He described as unfortunate, for example, that the Federal legislators made total cuts of “N347bn in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578bn.

“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.”

Meanwhile, the President warned that some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly, will also be difficult to implement, because they have not been properly conceptualized, designed and costed. Also, many of these projects have been added “with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.

“As it is, some of these projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened.”

He gave examples of such projects from which cuts were made, while 70 new road projects were “inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.  In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote.  Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly.”

The President expressed concern at the way the National Assembly jerked provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96bn, mostly “for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance.”

He also drew attention to how the legislators increased their budget by N14.5bn or 11.6%, from N125bn to N139.5bn without any discussion with the Executive.

Despite these observations, he said he “decided to sign the 2018 Budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.

“However, it is my intention to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which I hope the National Assembly will be able to expeditiously consider.”

The President expressed satisfaction with the success recorded in the implementation of the 2017 Budget, with a total of N1.5tr released for the implementation of capital projects during the fiscal year. This, he believes, has resulted in significant improvement in the performance of the nation’s economy.

He promised hard work to ensure the administration achieves “the laudable objectives of the 2018 Budget, we will work very hard to generate the revenues required to finance our projects and programmes.  The positive global oil market outlook, as well as continuing improvement in non-oil revenues, make us optimistic about our ability to finance the budget.”