After six months of tinkering with this year’s budget estimates submitted to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, the two chambers of the National Assembly concurrently passed the 2018 Appropriation Act yesterday.
This has raised hopes of increased government spending and its concomitant effect on the economy.
Immediate highlights are the raising of the oil price benchmark to $51 per barrel as against the $45 per barrel projected by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 7 last year, and the jerking up of the overall budget size from N8.612 trillion to N9.120 trillion.
In passing the budget, the National Assembly stated that the decisions to raise the entire budget profile by N508 billion and the oil price bench mark by $6 were taken in collaboration with the executive arm.
Also, the 2018 Appropriation is premised on production of 2.3 million barrels of oil per day and exchange rate of N305/$1.
The federal lawmakers gave highlights of the increased aggregate expenditure of N9.120 trillion as N530, 421, 368,624 billion for statutory transfers as against the N456, 458, 654 , 074 earlier proposed, and N2,203, 835, 365, 699 trillion for debt service as against the N2,233, 835, 365, 699 earlier proposed. Others are N3, 512, 677, 902, 077 trillion for recurrent expenditure as against N3,494,277, 820, 219 trillion earlier proposed; N2,873, 400, 351, 825 trillion for capital expenditure as against N2, 427, 665, 113, 222 trillion earlier proposed, and N1, 954, 464, 993, 775 trillion for fiscal deficit.
Specifically, the Appropriation committees of both chambers, in their separate reports that were adopted and passed, explained that the N508billion added to the N8.612 trillion presented to them in November last year arose from the addition of N46.72 billion to the security votes, N57.15 billion to health projection and N106.50 billion to power, works and housing estimates.
Others are N15.70 billion added to budgetary votes for the education sector out of which N1 billion each was earmarked for the 12 federal universities established by the Jonathan administration for the provision of critical infrastructure and the rest for meal subsidy for Unity Schools.
Also listed in the report were the N10 billion added to the judiciary votes and N44.20 billion added to the budgetary provisions of the NDDC.
Generally, under statutory transfers, the National Assembly has the highest vote of N139.5 billion, which is N14 billion higher than the N125 billion allocated to it in the 2017 budget.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was allocated N45.5 billion; Universal Basic Education (UBE) got N109.063 billion while Public Complaints Commission got N7.480 billion, etc.
Sectorally, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has the highest vote of N682.309 billion, followed by the Ministry of Transportation with N251.420 billion.
Others are N157.715 billion for Ministry of Defence; N149, 198 billion for Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and N147.200 billion for Ministry of Water Resources, etc.
Payment for oil subsidy was not included in the budget; both chambers called on the executive to forward a supplementary budget for that purpose.
In his remarks at the Senate session, Senate President Bukola Saraki said: “ We must appreciate now that the crude oil price is close to $80 (per barrel); a lot of Nigerians are expecting to see our Excess Crude Account to be on the rise, but if money is being used for subsidy at the end of the day, we will have it difficult to explain. That is why it is important that we capture this subsidy into the budget”.
In passing the budget, the House of Representatives warned the executive arm of government to ensure that only funds appropriated in the 2018 budget are disbursed to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and other organs of government.
The House further stipulated that the 2018 budget will run from the date it is assented till June 30, 2019.
The House had held a 90-minute closed-door session to consider the report of the joint committee of the National Assembly on Appropriation before passing the budget of N9,120,334, 988,225 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.
Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Hon Mustapha Dawaki, while making some clarifications on the committee’s report, noted that after consultations with the executive arm of government, the increase in the oil revenue was applied to critical sectors of the economy.
According to Dawaki, the special intervention as a result of the increment was applied in the following sectors; reduction of deficit, N50.88 billion; security,N46.72 billion; health, N57.15 billion; Power, Works and Housing, N106.50 billion; Education, especially the provision of infrastructure for the 12 new federal universities and meal subsidies to Unity Schools, N15.70 billion; judiciary, N10 billion and the (NDDC), N44.20 billion.
The budget breakdown however indicated that Ministries of Power, Works and Housing, Interior and Defence got the lion share with N714.6billion, N576.6billion and N576.3billion respectively.
The Ministry of Education got N542.1billion; Transport, N 267.1 while N101 billion was allocated to the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The lawmakers also approved N78 billion for the Operation Lafia Dole of the Nigerian Army for the fight against insurgency in the North East and another N45 billion for North East intervention fund.
Meanwhile, prior to the consideration of the budget the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara noted that the House raised a Conference Committee to interface with the Senate on the areas of differences on the budget.
Notable members of the Conference Committee are the chairmen of the standing committees of the House on Appropriation, Finance and Aids, Debts and Loan Management, Hon Yinka Ajayi.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Abdulrasak Namdas, told journalists after the plenary that the budget would be forwarded to the president next week for assent
Namdas added that both chambers of the National Assembly would harmonise some areas of difference before it is transmitted to the president.
He, however, stressed that the House would not tolerate any form of extra-budgetary expenditure, as he said such expenditure must be presented to the National Assembly through a supplementary budget by the Presidency.