Nigeria to buy 4 more Presidential Aircraft
The Federal Government is proposing to buy four more aircraft for the presidential fleet, according to the 2010 Appropriation Bill sent to the National Assembly yesterday by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
The expenditure item, which came under the “Intelli-gence Community” budget, listed the cost of purchasing “4 Nos Presidential Air Craft” at $210 million, which is about N31.5 billion, although only N23.4 billion is to be provided for it in the next fiscal year.
The presidential fleet currently boasts of 8 aircraft – including three jets – but the types of the proposed purchases were not stated in the budget. The individual costs were also not stated, presumably because of state security secret.
The East-West Road in the Niger Delta, which has been a source of agitation in the oil-producing region, has also been provided for in the Ministry of Niger Delta budget. This is expected to cost N28.33 billion.
Under the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO), which is supposed to keep electricity tariff within a certain band through subsidy in order to encourage private investment, the government has budgeted N65 billion.
Tariffs are being increased yearly under the scheme but consumers are not supposed to pay the entire cost until the sector is fully weaned of government involvement. The scheme, which took off last year, was initially planned for three years.
Another highlight of the budget is the completion of the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe Mausoleum in Onitsha, Anambra State, for N252 million.
Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria and first Senate President, died in May 1996 and a promise was made to build the mausoleum in his memory, but the structure had not gone beyond lintel level since the project started. The Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development has however included it in next year's budget.
The Federal Government has also taken steps to fulfil its promises to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which went on a three-month strike to press home its demands for better working conditions.
There is now a provision of N74 billion for “ASUU and other unions” under “Public Service Wage Adjustment”. Also to be accommodate under this is the implementation of the Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) which has also become a major source of conflict between the government and medical doctors. There is a budget of N10 billion for this.
A breakdown of the N4.079 trillion budget proposal indicates the Works Sector has the biggest allocation of N249.425 billion.
This is composed of proposed recurrent expenditure of N28, 119,267,120 and proposed capital expenditure of N221, 305,748,561.
Education sector is running neck and neck as one of the biggest spenders with Works at N249.086 billion but still has to settle for second position with N339 million lesser than Works' figure.
The sector is proposed to commit N195,418,320,506 into recurrent expenditure and N39,450,000,000 into capital expenditure.
These are some of the proposed expenditures in the Appropriation Bill which would be read for the second time today in the Senate.
The vital document did not contain any profile spelling out how the Federal Government intends to generate revenue to fund its proposed expenditures and deficits.
Normally, the profile should have formed part of the budget presentation address by Yar'Adua to the joint session of the National Assembly.
But Yar'Adua, due to the twin issue of the row between the Senate and the House of Representatives on the venue of the joint session and his travel to Saudi Arabia for medical check-up, could not present a budget address that would dwelled extensively on the revenue profile and the performance of the previous year's budget.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji had yesterday, on behalf of Yar'Adua, laid the proposal on the table of the Senate at exactly 11.34 a.m.
Abba-Aji, in company with the Special Assistant to the President (Senate), Dr. Ojougboh, was admitted into the chamber at 11.30 a.m. following the adoption of a motion to that effect by the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin.
Folarin had invoked Order 17 of the Senate Standing Rules (2007 as Amended) to suspend its rule to allow Abba-Aji to perform by proxy the presidential assignment in line with Section 81(1) of the 1999 Constitution. Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora seconded the motion.
The Bill as presented is for an Act to Authorise the issue from the Consolidated revenue Fund of the Federation the total of N4, 079,654,724,257 only.
While Senate proposes to spend N1 billion on committees' public hearings, the House of Representatives plans to expend N4.232 billion.
Another N1 billion is in the budget for Constitution Review. The amount is to be shared at N500 million apiece by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Speaking with Senate Correspondents yesterday after the presentation of the budget, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze said the budget would be given a thorough treatment before it is passed.
According to him, “The budget will be given a thorough treatment as I promised before. We are not going to stampede any committee; we will allow them to do their work well and the supplementary is compensating for that.
“The supplementary appropriation which we have now approved has technically extended the life of the 2009 appropriation to March next year; so they have ample room to continue what they are doing while we are treating the budget; but as soon as possible, we will try to do it as expeditiously as possible.”
He explained why the Senate went into a closed door session before plenary where the budget was laid its table by Abba-Aji at a short ceremony.
He stated, “I am obliged to speak to you because of the closed door session that we held. It was an opportunity for the senate leadership to brief the entire house about meeting and the decision of the caucus of the majority party.
“We had a caucus meeting last night (Monday night), the issues that came before us, we had to discuss them today (yesterday) and they are not new anymore; they are issues to do with the decision of the president to transmit the budget and cause it to be laid in accordance with Section 81(1) of the constitution following the intractable differences between the two chambers.
“We wanted to brief our members and inform them the decision that the majority party has taken and that is to accept the decision of the president, believing that the president has not flouted the Constitution.
“We briefed that it is very desirable if we can keep up then tradition of the president coming to speak to us in a joint session because that is also provided for in the constitution, that occasionally he can speak to us in a joint session on the state of the nation address or anything concerning financial matters, but that it is at his discretion.
“There is no law compelling him. In section 81 which deals with appropriation, he shall only cause it to be laid and when we discussed it with members of the other parties, they also agreed with the decision of majority party, that it was in order for us to allow the president to send somebody to lay the estimate, more so when the president has also travelled out of the country.
“That was exactly what we discussed in the closed session and I want to let you know that the Senate was unanimous in its decision to endorse the procedure of the president to transmit the budget pending when we put our house in order.
“If tomorrow the National Assembly is properly constituted and we want the president to come and present budget to a joint session, definitely he will come.”