. . . Calls for deduction of N143bn from N943.5bn security vote
Indications emerged yesterday that the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari could be heading for another showdown following the federal parliament’s recommendation that the N143bn INEC budget for the 2019 elections should be vired from the service wide vote, otherwise known as security vote.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that President Buhari had, in a virement seeking letter forwarded to both chambers of the National Assembly last month, requested the lawmakers to vire N228bn from the N578bn special votes the federal lawmakers allegedly added to the budget for funding of the 1,403 constituency projects they had included in the 2018 budget.
Buhari had, in the request, explained to the lawmakers that out of the N228bn, N164bn would be for 2019 elections budget from which N143bn should be appropriated for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) this year, while the balance of N64bn would be used for the execution of some critical projects.
But the National Assembly joint committee on INEC, at its final approval of the N143bn budget for the commission yesterday, declared that the money should be vired from N943. 573 billion service wide votes under the Special Intervention Programme proposed by the executive and not from the N578bn meant for the 1,403 constituency projects. The N943.573bn service wide vote constitutes about 10 per cent of the N9.2 trillion budget for 2018. The chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif (PDP, Bauchi North) said: “The committee is suggesting to the leadership of the National Assembly and the Committee on Appropriation to source the funding of this budget through virement from other service-wide votes under the Special Intervention Programme (Recurrent) to ease consideration and avoid increase in the size of the 2018 expenditure framework.”
Nazif, who spoke in the presence of other committee members including the co-chair, Hon Aisha Dukku (APC, Gombe), also stated that N200, 272, 500 million was also excised from the N143.512bn election budget proposal. According to him, the reduced figures were arrived at from N50m cut from item 64 of the INEC budget proposal, N71m from item 74, N50m from item 125 and N29m from item 167. “Subsequently, after extensive deliberations the, committee reviewed the INEC budget to “143.312.256.955.13, signifying a reduction of N200,272,500.00.” Service wide vote is described as funds for contingency provisions, such as armed forces operations, etc. The amounts are not fully determined, but include expenditures that are not agency–specific, hence are service-wide. Of the amount, the federal government made a provision to the tune of N43.1 billion to take care of public service wage adjustment for public servants (including arrears of promotion and salary increases) and payment of severance benefits. Severance benefits for retired heads of government agencies and parastatals will gulp N1 billion.
However, to sustain ongoing military operations in the North-Eastern part of country and wean off the region completely from the Boko Haram insurgency through ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ and other such military operations across the country, the sum of N78 billion is earmarked for the exercise. Besides operations in the North-East, the military is also carrying out operations in South-East, South-West, Niger Delta and other parts of the country. Presidential Amnesty programme and reintegration of transformed ex-militants will cost government N65 billion while the sum of N350 billion is set aside for Special Intervention Programme (recurrent), N2 billion for various international sporting competitions and another N13 billion for contingency (recurrent). For next year, the federal government earmarked N2.3 billion as entitlements of the former presidents/heads of state and vice presidents/chief of general staff. The same amount was appropriated in 2017.
According to director-general of Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, “There are also some items of expenditure requiring further scrutiny at the time of actual expenditure and approvals at certain levels which are, therefore, intentionally put under service-wide vote. “So under Service Wide Vote, for instance, you have provisions for armed forces operations. Those operations, they have to get specific approval of the Commander-in-Chief at the time of carrying them out before they are funded.”Akabueze explained further that all of the service-wide votes in the budget were classified as under the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
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