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2018 Budget Cuts: South East, Niger Delta worst hit

By News Express on 23/06/2018

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•President Buhari presenting the 2018 draft budget of N8.61 Trillion to a joint session of the Nat
•President Buhari presenting the 2018 draft budget of N8.61 Trillion to a joint session of the Nat

Details of the drastic inexplicable cuts in the capital projects earmarked by the Executive carried out by the National Assembly, which have infuriated President Muhammadu Buhari have emerged with indications that key projects in the South-East and the South-South were the worst hit by the lawmakers’ action.


Top on the list of projects in the South-East and the Niger Delta affected by the drastic cuts by the lawmakers, are the Second Niger Bridge, whose N10 billion allocation by the Presidency, was cut by the lawmakers to N9.197 billion, slashing off N 802,752,795 million. Similarly, the two billion naira allocation for the construction of terminal building at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, was drastically reduced to a paltry N530.8 million, cutting N1.5 billion off the project.

At the same time, in the nearby Niger Delta area, the sum of N5 billion earmarked by the Presidency as take-off grant for the National Maritime University Okerenkoko, was also slashed by N1.6 billion by the lawmakers, leaving a balance of N3.4 billion for the take off of the varsity. Again, the provisions for the completion of the East-West Road, which serves the South-East and South-South oil producing areas of the country, were significantly slashed raising concerns over the completion of the controversial road.

For instance, the N1 billion earmarked for the completion of the 99-kilometre stretch from Port Harcourt to Eket in Akwa Ibom State, was slashed to N700 million while the N2.7 billion meant for the 51-kilometre stretch from Eket to Oron all in Akwa Ibom State was reduced to N2.085 billion and the N3.5 billion set aside for the Oron to Calabar stretch was cut to N2 billion. It will be recalled that President Buhari had expressed dissatisfaction with the budget, saying that it will be difficult to implement it the way the lawmakers distorted his major provisions and introduced personal projects into it. The president said he was compelled to sign the budget but did not say who compelled him.

 

NASS stands by action; asks Buhari to stop misleading Nigerians.

However, the National Assembly, yesterday, criticised President Buhari over his lamentations before signing the 2018 Appropriation bill into law, and asked all the executive appointees to tell the President the truth. Stressing that trading blames and unnecessary scapegoating was not healthy for the nation’s polity, the lawmakers said that the budgetary process should be a higher priority than trading blames.

Noting that the Presidency must not mislead Nigerians, the legislators said there was a fraud of N1.7 billion in Enugu Airport, and that during the budget defence and oversight processes, the National Assembly discovered that out of the N2billion contract for the Enugu Terminal Building, N1.7billion had already been paid to the contractor, adding that what was left to complete this project was just N300million, a reason the National Assembly approved N500million for the project — which is even N200million more than what was required. Addressing journalists in Abuja at a joint Press Conference, Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, in a speech titled: “ the President’s Budget Speech: Our Response,’’ said that they stood by the action of the lawmakers of both chambers against the backdrop that all what they did were within their powers as lawmakers. The lawmakers disclosed that the sum of N20billion allocated for the second Niger bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budgets were not utilized by the executive and yet Nigerians were being deceived that work on the project had reached advanced stage.

 

The National Assembly revealed that its decision to re-arrange the 2018 budget proposal submitted by President Buhari became imperative because of the need to correct what it described as the lopsidedness and imbalances in the budget estimates. According to the legislature, the number of projects were increased in line with federal character and to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command national loyalty.

 

“The introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria… The number of projects had to be increased in order to give a sense of belonging to every geo-political zone of the country to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command National loyalty.”

 

The National Assembly also accused the Federal Executive Council, FEC of awarding 15 roads with no budgetary provisions just as it explained that a recent Court judgement affirmed the budget process is a ‘joint effort’ that “must reflect the input of both the executive and the legislature, of which the National Assembly is closest representatives of the people. Sabi said: “It was stated that the legislature made cuts amounting to N347 billion which were meant for 4,700 projects. Again, these reductions of N347 billion were made from low priority areas to higher priority areas to support the generation of employment for our youth by MSMEs.

“We took the decision to reduce the funds in some areas in order to ensure balance and equity in the spread and utilization of our national funds. Additionally, the figures of the reductions made by the National Assembly were unduly exaggerated as we did not make any substantial reduction on any project to the extent of affecting its implementation.”

He continued: “To give the exact detail of the projects where we made deductions, it should be noted that the counterpart funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/Ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Express Road and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project, was reduced by only N3,956,400,290 – which represents only 1.78% of the total N222,569,335,924 submitted by President Buhari.

“This left these projects with N218,612,935,634 which cannot negatively affect their implementation. This obviously contradicts the claim that these projects lost “an aggregate of N11.5 billion”.

Faulting Buhari’s position on the reduction in some of the proposed funds for some critical projects, Sabi maintained that the amount reduced by the National Assembly are insignificant and would not in any way make it impossible for the Executive to implement as alleged by the President.

Sabi said: “Specifically, the counterpart funding for 3050mw Mambilla Hydro-power Project was reduced from N8.5 billion to N8.2 billion (a reduction of N300 million); construction of the Second Niger bridge including access roads phases 2a and 2b in Anambra and Delta states and other projects in the South-East were reduced from N10 billion to N9.1 billion (a reduction of N900 million); the construction of Bodo-Bonny road with a bridge across the Opobo channel in Rivers State was reduced from N10 billion to N8.7billion (a reduction of N1.3 billion); the funding for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced from N20 billion to N18 billion (a reduction of N2billion), which would not significantly affect the construction of the road in one appropriations cycle; the Railway Projects (Counterpart Funds): Lagos-Kano (ongoing); Calabar-Lagos (Ongoing); Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Aladja (Warri) (Ongoing) 4. Port Harcourt- Maiduguri (New); Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi in Niger Republic (New); Abuja-Itakpe and Aladja (Warri)-Warri Port and Refinery including Warri new Harbour (New); Bonny deep Sea Port & Port Harcourt of N162,284,335,924 was retained by the National Assembly as presented by Mr. President.

“The National Assembly increased the aggregate funding for the East-West Road from N11,285,000,000 to N12,085,000,000 because we realised the strategic importance of the road to the entire oil producing areas of our country and the fact that the road project has lingered for too long.

“Addressing the issue of the Second Niger Bridge project, apart from early works, as of today, there is no existing contract for the Second Niger Bridge in spite of frequent requests from the National Assembly. The N900million reduced from the N10billion proposed by the Executive was deployed to fund ancillary roads that connect to the Bridge. It should again be noted that the N12.5billion and the N7.5billion appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budget by the National Assembly were never utilized for the project.

“We also need to call the attention of the public to the fact that the National Assembly allocated an additional N2billion to the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway project. This was more than the Executive proposed.

“As part of the implementation of the 2017 budget, the contracts for 15 roads were awarded by the Federal Executive Council with no budgetary provisions. Realizing the importance of these projects, the National Assembly decided to spread the N3.9billion saved from the earlier mentioned projects funding to facilitate the take-off of these projects that include: the rehabilitation of Ikorodu-Shagamu road in Lagos State; the rehabilitation of 9th Mile-Orakam to Benue Border; and the general maintenance of Pankshin – Ballang – Nyelleng – Sararele- Gindiri road in Plateau State, etc.

“These are the projects purported to be ‘project inclusions without conceptualization.’ On these projects, the National Assembly needs to be commended by Mr. President for helping to support the take-off of these awarded but unfunded projects.

 

Why we cut FCT budget

“Furthermore, it was stated that the budget of the FCT was cut by N 7.5 billion. This is true. The legislators stand by this decision because through its oversight of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the National Assembly discovered that in the 2016 and 2017 budget cycle, there was a severe non-performance of the budgetary allocations to the FCT. During the two years in question, over 50% of the funds that were allocated and released to the FCT were not utilized. These funds were ultimately returned to the treasury. Hence, in order to ensure that scarce resources were allocated in accordance to ‘needs over wants’, funding for the FCT which has historically been under-utilised were allocated to other MDAs that have demonstrated the capacity to implement their allocation for the development of the nation and its people. It was part of the allocation that we spread over the roads for which contracts were awarded with no budgetary allocation.

Interventions in health sector

“On the provisions for strategic interventions in the health sector which were said to be cut by an aggregate of N7.45billion, it is on record that for the first time since the National Health Act was enacted in 2014, the National Assembly made provision of an additional N55billion for funding primary healthcare through the Basic Primary Healthcare Fund which will be sourced from 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Thus, contrary to the claim that the health sector suffered any budgetary cuts, we actually provided more funds that will make access to health services possible for over 180 million Nigerians.

Unity schools

“On the issue of the 104 Unity Schools across the nation and the claim that N3billion was cut from their funding, Nigerians need to know that after careful consultation by the committees of the National Assembly with stakeholders in the sector, the National Assembly actually provided an additional N3.7billion for meal subsidies in these 104 Unity Schools.’’

Increase in statutory transfers

“In the case of statutory transfers where the increase in the National Assembly’s budget was isolated, it is important to note that the increase in the oil price benchmark from the projected $45 to the actual price of $51 generated additional N523.65 billion for the Federal Government. “Thus, based on agreement between the National Assembly and the Executive as represented by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the additional revenues were allocated among the three arms of government as follows:

“The Executive’s proposal for the National Judicial Council was N100billion, however, the National Assembly appropriated N110billion which represents N10 billion increase; the Executive’s proposal for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was N71,195,023,529, however the National Assembly appropriated N81,882,555,891 — which represents a N10,687,532,363 increase; an additional N33,981,437,188 was also appropriated for the outstanding liabilities to the NDDC by the Federal Government to enable the commission settle some of its contractors that were owed over N1 trillion.

Why NASS budget was raised

“The National Assembly received an additional N14.5billion in funding. In order to ensure that they are able to meet their mandate, the National Assembly increased the Public Complaint’s Commission’s budget from the N4,200,000,000 proposed by the President to N7,480,000,000 —which represents a N3,280,000,000 increase; and lastly, the National Human Rights Commission’s budget was increased from N1.5billion to N3,013,745,000, which represents a N1,513,745,000 increase,” Namdas said.

 On the National Assembly budget, he disclosed that the “budget of the National Assembly as at 2014 was N150billion, which is still N10.5billion more than our current figure despite increased national challenges that requires: frequent public hearings held on almost a daily basis at high costs; and intense oversight, which has become more thorough and incisive in order to check the Executive. The N139.5billion budget of the National Assembly represents less than 1.5percent of the entire N9trillion budget. Does it not make sense to use 1.5percent to protect the other 98.5percent?

 “The public should note that this increase in the legislature’s budget was also necessitated by the drastic inflation of the last four years; the need to rehabilitate the National Assembly’s deteriorating facilities, like the elevators which shut-down almost weekly; spending hundreds of millions to procure diesel to constantly power the entire complex; and the need to immediately upgrade the security facilities of the complex. It is important to point out at this juncture that the collapse of the CCTV system facilitated the mace theft in April.’’

FG allocates Power, Works & Housing N 1.4 trillion

Going by the appropriation, the Federal Ministry Power, Works and Housing has been allocated the highest budget of N1.397 trillion in the 2018 budget. There was a N715 billion allocation for recurrent expenditure and another N682.96 billion for capital projects, as contained in the budget details. The document indicates that about N344 billion would be for the construction and rehabilitation of several roads nationwide including: Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Dual Carriageway; Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa-Bokani Road; Abuja-Abaji Road; Kano-Maiduguri Road; and Enugu-Port-Harcourt Dual Carriageway. Some of the major Power projects allocations were: N9.4 billion set aside as counterpart fund for the Mambilla hydro power project ; N9.7 billion counterpart funding earmarked for transmission lines and substations ; N2.2 billion Construction of 215MW LPFO/ Gas Power station Kaduna; N3.4 billion Kashimbilla transmission; N14.2 billion Fast Power Programme Accelerated Gas and Solar Power Generation. Defence was third on the list with N157.72 billion, followed by Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources and Trade & Investment with N149. 20 billion, N 147.20 billion and N105.16 billion, respectively. Education was allocated N102. 91 billion; Health, N86.49 billion; Interior, N 75. 10 billion; Science & Technology, N68. 31 billion; Niger Delta Development Affairs, N58. 08 billion ; and Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), N52.94 billion.

Recurrent

On the Recurrent budget, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing was also allocated the highest recurrent vote of N715. Billion. It was followed by the Ministry of Interior with N501.61 billion, and Education which got N439.26 billion. Other ministries with huge recurrent allocations were: Defence, N418 68 billion; as well as, Health N269.97 billion; Youth and Sports, N84 billion. Curiously, the Office of the National Security Adviser was allocated a recurrent budget of 76. 02 billion, higher than allocations to Ministries of Petroleum, N63. 53 billion; Foreign Affairs, N63.11 billion OSGF, N58 .85 billion; and Agriculture with N53.81 billion.

“Thus, based on agreement between the National Assembly and the Executive as represented by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the additional revenues were allocated among the three arms of government as follows:

“The Executive’s proposal for the National Judicial Council was N100billion, however, the National Assembly appropriated N110billion which represents N10 billion increase; the Executive’s proposal for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was N71,195,023,529, however the National Assembly appropriated N81,882,555,891 — which represents a N10,687,532,363 increase; an additional N33,981,437,188 was also appropriated for the outstanding liabilities to the NDDC by the Federal Government to enable the commission settle some of its contractors that were owed over N1 trillion.

Source News Express

Posted 23/06/2018 1:44:15 PM

 

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