Reps Approve Amendment Of 2010 Budget

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ABUJA, June 29, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives today approved for second reading the proposed amendment Bill seeking to alter the 2010 Appropriation Act.

Also passed for second reading at plenary was the Bill for a supplementary appropriation of N639, 824,478,183 naira to the 2010 budget.

President Goodluck Jonathan in a letter to the National Assembly last month, sought the reduction of the 2010 Appropriation Act by about 40 percent, saying that the prevailing economic indices had raised concerns that the Appropriation Act as passed could not be effectively financed. He also requested for the supplementary appropriation to be applied to some "unanticipated expenditures."

According to the president, there had been significant shortfalls in both oil and non-oil revenue, which according to him, may continue through the 2010 fiscal year and therefore pose adverse challenges to effectively financing the budget.

The National Assembly passed the over four trillion Naira 2010 Appropriation Act, leaving the benchmark of oil at about 70 dollar per barrel, while the Presidency had in its initial proposal for the 2010 budget pegged the oil benchmark price at about 54 dollar per barrel.

"Given the recent drop in international oil prices from over 80 dollar per barrel to under 70 dollar per barrel, it is prudent to revise the oil benchmark price to a more realistic level," Jonathan stated in the request to the federal legislature.

According to him, certain critical items such as the statutory transfers, debt services, the service-wide votes and other critical expenditure heads which were inadvertently omitted, or underprovided for had made it necessary to provide for them through a supplementary appropriation.

Other key unanticipated items that needed financing, he explained were the negotiated civil service wage increase, Power Holding Company of Nigeria [PHCN] arrears of monetization and the 50th Independence anniversary celebration, as well as the Niger Delta issue. "It is proposed to provide for all these expenditure through a supplementary budget," he stated.

However, the Bills did not have a smooth ride on the floor, as Leader of the Minority; Mohammed Ali Ndume was specifically opposed to the request for about 10 billion Naira for the 50th Independence Anniversary.

Ndume said it would amount to insensitivity on the part of government to spend such huge amount on the anniversary when several millions of Nigerians had no access to basic good health, education and food on the table. He also accused the executive arm of already commencing expenditure on the anniversary planning when it was yet to get the appropriation from the National Assembly.

"You don’t celebrate on empty stomach. We cannot be celebrating when we cannot provide the basic needs like good health, security for the people and food. I am aware that workers are threatening to go on strike but if other Nigerians had no opportunity to be workers, they should not be made to suffer more," he argued when suggesting that such funds could go for better facilities for Nigerians.

Also, Igo Aguma in his submissions noted that the 2010 budget was already a failure, if almost in the month of July; there is still the debate on supplementary budget. He however suggested that there should be extension on the span of the budget to March 31, 2011. Aguma was supported by Cyril Maduabum on the need for extension.

Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, John Eno in contribution said there was need to amend the budget, as the implementation has been challenges to the government.

According to him, the three tiers of government jointly required about 5.2 trillion Naira monthly disbursements by the Federation Account Allocation Committee [FAAC]. He pointed out that there was however, a shortfall of about 27 percent as only about 4.1 trillion was available for sharing.

Chairman of the committee on Legislative Budget and Research, Habeeb Fashinro also lamented to persistent non utilization of funds by MDAs, adding that there was need for the National Assembly to review the nation’s budget processes.

Speaker Dimeji Bankole who presided over plenary in his ruling after the voice votes in support of the Bill’s passage, urged the joint committee on Appropriation and Finance to which the Bills were committed for further legislative action, to ascertain the level of performance of the 2009 budget which implementation period elapsed on March 31, 2010.