Breaking from the Past

National Assembly Complex

For the first time, both Executive and federal Legislature don’t carry over the passage of the annual budget into the new year

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim   |  Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00

BEFORE the December 20, passage of the 2013 federal budget, the process of budgeting by both the executive and legislature appeared to be jinxed. Apart from the 2007 budget which was passed in 2006 because of the 2007 general election, budget delay has been the norm in the country. There was always bickering between the two arms of government  over the indices used for budget with a lot of muscle flexing on who will have the upper hand in determining what goes into the budget. In some cases, the budget will not be presented to the National Assembly until very late in the preceding year and would not be passed until April. For instance, last year’s budget was given to the National Assembly on December 10, by the executive and was subsequently passed in March. This has, undoubtedly, slowed economic activities as both the private and public sectors await the budget to know the thrust of government’s programme for the year.

Muda Yusuf, DG, LCCI
Muda Yusuf, DG, LCCI

Nigeria has now made a clean break away from undue delays in budget presentation and passage by both the executive and the legislature. With the legislature passing the 2013 budget of N4.987 trillion on Wednesday, December 20, it marked the first time in several years that such a feat has been achieved especially since the advent of civilian dispensation in May 1999. It is also the first time in the history of the country that the National Assembly will not make appropriation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, until their previous resolution that Arunma Oteh, director general of SEC, be sacked is done.

But this year, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan turned the corner, taking the budget to the National Assembly in October. The legislators also played ball and passed it by December 20, without much drama and rancor from both sides. What is now left is for Jonathan to append his signature to the 2013 appropriation bill.

The president had earlier sent a budget of N4.82 trillion. But the legislators increased it to N4.987 trillion with about N63 billion. The implication of this early passage of 2013 budget is that the executive arm of government is expected to start its immediate implementation which could also trigger economic growth. The legislature has also asked the executive to roll over the unimplemented part of the 2012 budget to 2013.

Muda Yusuf, director general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, said the early passage of the budget is going to have a positive impact on the economy. “It is something we should commend the National Assembly”, he said, adding that the early passage of the budget would give the executive arm of government the ample time to fully implement the budget which in turn would lead to economic development for the country.

Before the budget was approved, the National Assembly said it had identified entirely new projects designated as ongoing. Mohammed Maccido, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, while presenting the joint committee report, described a situation where projects not found in the 2011 and 2012 budgets but were cited in 2013 as ongoing as very misleading. “There should be a verifiable template for budgeting, especially on capital projects. If the painful sight of abandoned projects in Nigeria will be a thing of the past, then ongoing projects must be properly defined”, he said.

Arunma Oteh, DG, SEC
Arunma Oteh, DG, SEC

In the budget, the House of Representatives slashed the recurrent expenditure by more than N100 billion and added that amount to capital projects allocation.  In the original proposal, Jonathan had set aside N2.41trillion for recurrent expenditure, but the lawmakers slashed it to N2.38 trillion. Similarly, capital vote was raised to N1.62 trillion, up from Jonathan’s N1.54trillion. The sum of N591.7 billion was earmarked for debt servicing, while N387.9 billion was allocated for statutory transfers. The crude oil benchmark also increased from the executive proposal of $75 to $79 per barrel.

John Enoh, chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, gave reasons why the House rejected the $75 crude oil benchmark proposed by the Executive.   According to him, the extra $4 to be saved from raising the benchmark to $79 would be used to bring the deficit of N1.03 trillion down to around N887 billion.

The National Assembly also used the opportunity of the budget passage to stamp its authority on the resolution it passed early this year that Oteh be sacked as director general of SEC.  The House stated in the Appropriation Bill passed on Thursday that the agency must not spend any funds in 2013 without appropriation by the National Assembly.

A clause dedicated to SEC in the bill reads, “All revenue, however, so described, including all fees received, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally and externally generated revenue shall not be spent by the Securities and Exchange Commission for recurrent or capital purposes or for any other matters, nor liabilities thereon incurred except with the prior appropriation and approval by the National Assembly.”

Mohammed later said, “We want to see which money will be used to run SEC in the years ahead. It is a resolution of the House that Oteh should go and we will continue to keep the situation that way. Oteh must go; if she doesn’t go, we will not have any dealings with SEC or touch its budget. We are on the same page with the Senate on this and it is only a matter of time.”

With this situation, it means that SEC cannot operate and whatever money it spends without the approval of the National Assembly is illegal. The presidency is yet to react to this development.

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