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House Kicks Against Readjustment To 2010 Budget By Executive

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ABUJA, July 08, (THEWILL) - Members of the House of Representatives today expressed displeasure with the perennial adjustments being proposed for the 2010 budget by the executive saying the practice is delaying the National Assembly from concluding the amendment process.

They were reacting to a correspondence sent by President Goodluck Jonathan seeking another adjustment to the 2010 budget as well as approval for the revenue framework as reviewed by the executive arm.

This would be the third time that the executive would be seeking amendment to the budget as passed by the National Assembly. It will be recalled that the President had in late May, 2010 written the National Assembly to review the 2010 Appropriation Act as passed, citing the noted revenue shortfall to finance the budget as reason for the earlier request.

"Given the recent drop in international oil prices from over $80 dollars per barrel to under $70 dollars per barrel, it is prudent to revise the oil benchmark price to a more realistic level," Jonathan stated then in the letter separately sent to both arms of the federal legislature.

In his latest request, Jonathan explained that information available from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) indicate that oil production for the 2010 fiscal year was likely to average at about 2.2 million barrel per day, as against the 2.25 million barrel per day projected in the initial revenue framework submitted to the National Assembly.

The president explained that based on the new assumptions, the revenue framework would have to be reviewed, putting the oil production at 2.2 million barrel per day and the oil price benchmark at $60 dollar per barrel.

"This revision would imply aggregate revenue for the federal government budget of N2.392 trillion naira, and a deficit of about N1.829 trillion naira," he stated in his letter.

Jonathan further requested that based on the reprioritization of capital projects by the State House, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force, the intelligence community, and the Ministries of Aviation, Health, the Federal Capital Territory [FCT] and Foreign Affairs, the budgets of the affected MDAs should be substituted.

According to him, there was need for some slight amendment to the supplementary proposals because "some projects in eight MDAs have been reviewed downwards, or completely dropped in certain cases."

He said the MDAs include the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Ministry of Information and Communications, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory, Ministry of Aviation, the National Planning Commission and the National Assembly office.

The president also asked that additional funds be allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the posting of ambassadors and diplomatic staff, and for the Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs to commence training for non-militant Niger Delta youths.

However, when the speaker finished reading the letter to the House, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Ayo Adeseun expressed reservations that the constant letters seeking changes in the budget by the executive is causing the budget to be further delayed in the National Assembly.

He lamented that even when the year has gone far beyond half, the budget is still being adjusted and readjusted, thus putting the economy at a standstill.

"We didn’t finish work on the amendment until 4 am this morning and the report of the budget is ready for presentation.

"The delays in the process is and always creates a situation where the executive would say that the budget is being delayed by the National Assembly.

"This is July, the economy is dying and there is nothing going on out there. This does not hold well for a serious nation, it is not the best way to grow an economy, not the best way for a nation."

Going further, the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Hon. John Owan Enoh described the letter as an "unnecessary delay."

Enoh noted that the reasons being adduced by the executive for the adjustment requests are not tenable and must not necessarily be honoured.

"In 2009," he said, "before the amnesty programme, we asked questions about how we were doing in daily oil production and one year later, we are still being given the same excuses".

"When these things keep coming like this, they keep delaying the process", he noted.

However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Dimeji Bankole called for calm, while advising his colleagues to put in more efforts to ensure that the document gets a speedy consideration.

"We are going to break plenary next week so that all the committees can do all work they want to do, even if they have to close by 1 am."