• Dogara warns executive against alteration of figures
• Lawmakers raise own budget from N115 billion to N125 billion
• Kick against votes for SGF’s office • Mixed reactions trail passage
• Buhari, Jonathan, Obasanjo, others to get N2.3b entitlements
• Federal Government releases N1.2 trillion capital votes
The National Assembly yesterday passed the 2017 Appropriation Bill of N7.441 trillion.The passage of the bill came after the appropriation committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives had separately presented their harmonised reports on the budget for consideration.
The approved budget was based on the medium term expenditure frame-work/fiscal strategy MTEF/FSP benchmark price of crude oil pegged at USD 44.50 and based on crude oil production of 2.2 mbpd, and an exchange rate of N305 to a dollar.
Dogara, who noted that the passage of the budget was worth celebrating, warned that on no account must the approved budget figures be altered without the approval of the National Assembly.
In another development, the National Assembly has increased its own budget from N115 billion as contained in the 2016 national budget to N125 billion in the 2017 budget.
A breakdown of the lawmakers’ budget indicates that the management got N6,714,696,986 for personnel with overhead cost of N6,193,052,825 and capital cost of N2,011,315,202, totalling N14,919,065,013.
The Senate got N1,856,510,517 for personnel; N25,111,332,147 for overheads and N4,430,923,222 for capital; totalling N31,398,765,886.The House of Representatives got N4,923,743,127 for personnel; N39,635,756,179 and N4,493,244,677; totaling N49,052,743,983, among others.
The House of Representatives yesterday gave reasons for increasing National Assembly allocation in this year’s budget to N125 billion. According to the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, the N115 billion provided as the Assembly’s vote in 2016 budget had proved to be inadequate, hence the need to increase it by N10 billion.
He said it was in consideration of the prevailing economic situation that the National Assembly slashed its yearly allocation from the N150 billion that used to be obtainable in the past, to the N115 billion for the three components of the legislature – management, Senate and House.
Besides, the entitlements of former presidents, heads of state, vice presidents and chief of general staff are to gulp N2.3 billion in this year’s budgetary appropriation that was passed yesterday by the National Assembly.
Although details of allocations to each of them are yet to be made public, it has been gathered that the amount would be for their welfare, pensions and gratuities. Also in the budget, N76.7 billion would further be set for implementing the amnesty programme this year.
The Niger Delta ministry has been allocated N30 billion. In settling the outstanding electricity bills of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for the year, according to the budget details, N40 billion has been set aside for the purpose.
There was, however, a mild drama as the lawmakers raised eye-brows over the allocation of N51,933,366,906 billion to the office of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal.
They later endorsed the allocation after Dogara explained that the votes were meant for the expenditures of several other agencies under the SGF office.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the 2017 budget passed yesterday.
While most Nigerians expressed optimism that the budget would lead Nigeria out of its current economic recession, others described as ‘over-ambitious’ the increase of the crude oil benchmark from $42 a barrel to $44.5 per barrel.
The experts, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, said the bill may suffer deficit when crude oil prices drop below the current benchmark. Meanwhile, Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, yesterday said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration has released over N1.2 trillion capital votes as the 2016 fiscal plan ended last week May 5.
Adeosun, who stated this in Abuja in a statement, however, failed to provide the detailed breakdown of the releases to the Federal Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) but merely identified some three key ministries as major or lead beneficiaries of the releases.
The three ministries and the amount reportedly released to them are Power, Works and Housing, which received the largest allocation of more than N307.411 billion; followed by Defence and Security of over N171.900 billion and Transport and Aviation which got more than N143.121 billion
She explained that the increase was in line with government’s increased focus on capital expenditure.In the statement signed by the Director of Information in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Salisu Na’Inna Dambatta, the minister listed other sectors that received attention but for which no amount was attached as agriculture and water resources, education and health.