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Senate Approves N4.48trillion 2011 Harmonized Budget

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ABUJA, May 25, (THEWILL) - The Senate today passed the amendment to the 2011 Budget proposal forwarded to it by President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday with yet a new figure different from what was requested by the presidency.

The lawmakers passed a final figure of, N4,484,736,648,992, which is however about N77.6 billion more than the N4,407,052,300,582 proposed by the Presidency.

Accordingly, President Jonathan’s request for a N564 billion reduction from the original figure of N4.9 trillion 2011 budget passed in March by the National Assembly was now slashed by only N487 billion.

The budget passage was fast tracked with the First, Second and Third Readings of the presidential proposal, cited as “2011 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill”, taken in quick succession. This was sequel to the suspension of Order 75 of the Senate rules.

In the proposed amendment, N387, 824, 288, 743 is for statutory transfers, N495, 096, 682, 115 would go for debt servicing and N2, 401, 330, 677, 943 is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, while the balance of N1, 122, 800, 651, 781 is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure for the year ending December 31, 2011.

However, the new version passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday is, however, remarkably different, as only the estimate earmarked for debt servicing was left untouched.

The sum of N417, 824, 288, 743 was approved for statutory transfers instead of the N387, 824, 288, 743 proposed by the President. Also, the Senate approved N2, 425, 065, 124, 967 for recurrent expenditure instead of the N2, 401, 330, 677, 943 proposed by the President while the balance of N1, 146, 750, 553, 167 would be spent for capital projects instead of the N1, 122, 800, 651, 781 earmarked for the subhead by the presidency.

Presenting his committee’s report during the clause-by-clause consideration of the Appropriation Act Amendment Bill at the Senate plenary yesterday, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore said: “The Senate will recall that the 2011 Appropriation Bill was passed into law by the National Assembly on March 16 in the sum of N4.971 trillion. The decision to approve a budget of this magnitude was in the opinion of the National Assembly that the incoming government needs to improve the infrastructure -- roads, power, rails, etc.

“The President assented to the Bill. However, the Executive observed that the deficits projected in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly needs to be reduced by minimizing the domestic borrowing components to give the economy a breathing space.

“Consequently, Mr. President in a letter dated May 23, 2011, requested for amendment to the 2011 budget by the National Assembly. The Senate considered the proposed amendment and referred it immediately to the Appropriation Committee for legislative actions.

“In response to the above, the Senate Committee on Appropriation in collaboration with the House counterpart and the Federal Ministry of Finance reviewed the budget downward in line with the agreed benchmarks.”

But Vice Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Andrew Babalola was unconvinced. He told Senate President David Mark that “there should be a short explanation as to where these cuts are being made.”

Mark however told him the chamber had moved beyond that. Next was Public Accounts Committee Chairman Ahmad Lawan who complained that the cuts in the budget did not afford lawmakers to know “whether what goes to our senatorial districts have been removed or not. This amendment now gives us insight that the Legislature and the Executive should work more closely on budgets.”

Mark cut him short and reminded him that comments on the budget should have come during the Second Reading of the Bill and not in the Committee of Supply. He declared that there would be no more comments on the budget.

Details from the amended budget show that government would get N5 billion as increase for minimum wage for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). Another N5.5 billion is Nigeria’s contribution to international organizations while N13.1 billion has been budgeted for external financial obligations.

In the new budget, lawmakers would get N1.6 billion in lieu of accommodation for the seventh session of the National Assembly and another N10 billion would be used as logistics support for the 2011 elections.

A hefty N99.1 billion has been approved for the Federal Government’s amnesty programme. A breakdown shows that N17 billion is for stipends and allowance, N35. 722 billion is for re-integration of Niger Delta ex-militants and another N17.524 is to pay for the 2010 arrears for re-integration of transformed Niger Delta ex-militants.

A further breakdown shows that N1.947 would fund operations cost of the programme and another N6.5 billion is for 2010 arrears of re-insertion/transition safety allowance for 20, 192 transformed ex-militants. N20.481 billion is for additional allocation for 6, 166 ex-militants.

Thereafter, the Senate President remarked that the Presidency has no excuse not to implement the 2011 budget as amended.

"We urge the Executive arm of government that we have passed the Bill; they should be able to implement the budget fully.

"The idea of leaving out some projects from the budget should not happen this time around," Mark stated.