As part of the new year’s gift to Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the 2022 Appropriation bill of N17.126 trillion and the 2021 Finance bill. into law, just as he faulted the National Assembly for adjusting the contents of the estimates presented before the house.
The president said that the 2022 budget provides for aggregate expenditures of N17.127 trillion, an increase of N735.85 billion over the initial Executive Proposal for a total expenditure of N16.391 trillion.
According to him, the N186.53 billion of the increase however came from additional critical expenditures that he had authorised the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning to forward to the National Assembly.
Buhari disclosed that he would have declined to append his signature on the appropriation bill, but signed it in order to sustain the tradition of restoring a predictable January to December fiscal year, as provided for in the 1999 constitution.
The president, who signed the bill into law on Friday at the Presidential Villa in the presence of Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and other members of the Federal Executive Council, described the changes made by the lawmakers as worrisome.
While arguing that the 2022 executive budget proposal presented before the lawmakers should have been allowed to remain or seek clarification before effecting adjustments, the president announced that he would revert to the National Assembly with a request for amendment as soon as the lawmakers resume for the year.
According to him, this is to ensure that critical ongoing projects cardinal to this administration do not suffer a setback due to reduced funding.
The President recounted that during the presentation of the 2022 Appropriation Bill, he had stated that the fiscal year 2022 would be very crucial in his administration’s efforts to complete and put to use critical agenda projects, as well as improve the general living conditions of our people.
‘‘It is in this regard that I must express my reservations about many of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal”, he added.
He listed some of the projects that the lawmakers’ actions had affected and how the adjustments would become a burden on the for the executive when implementing it next year.
‘‘Increase in projected FGN Independent Revenue by N400 billion, the justification for which is yet to be provided to the Executive;
‘‘Reduction in the provision for Sinking Fund to Retire Maturing Bonds by N22 billion without any explanation; Reduction of the provisions for the Non-Regular Allowances of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Navy by N15 billion and N5 billion respectively.
‘‘This is particularly worrisome because personnel cost provisions are based on agencies’ nominal roll and approved salaries/allowances;
‘‘Furthermore, an increase of N21.72 billion in the Overhead budgets of some MDAs, while the sum of N1.96 billion was cut from the provision for some MDAs without apparent justification;
‘‘Increase in the provision for Capital spending (excluding Capital share in Statutory Transfer) by a net amount of N575.63 billion, from N4.89 trillion to N5.47 trillion”, Buhari added.
He also expressed concern in the reductions in provisions for some critical projects, including N12.6 billion in the Ministry of Transport’s budget for the ongoing Rail Modernisation projects; N25.8 billion from Power Sector Reform Programme under the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; N14.5 billion from several projects of the Ministry of Agriculture, and introducing over 1,500 new projects into the budgets of this Ministry and its agencies.
Aside from that, the president further expressed his reservations on the “inclusion of new provisions totaling N36.59 billion for National Assembly’s projects in the Service Wide Vote which negates the principles of separation of Powers and financial autonomy of the Legislative arm of government.
‘‘The changes to the original Executive proposal are in the form of new insertions, outright removals, reductions and/or increases in the amounts allocated to projects.
‘‘Provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects were reduced while 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly.
‘‘Reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment’ projects. The cuts in the provisions for several of these projects by the National Assembly may render the projects unimplementable or set back their completion, especially some of this Administration’s strategic capital projects.
‘‘Most of the projects inserted relate to matters that are basically the responsibilities of State and Local Governments and do not appear to have been properly conceptualized, designed, and cost.
‘‘Many more projects have been added to the budgets of some MDAs with no consideration for the institutional capacity to execute the additional projects and/or for the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.’’
Buhari declared that it was surprising that despite the National Assembly increasing projected revenue by N609.27 billion, the additional Executive request of N186.53 billion for critical expenditure items could not be accommodated without increasing the deficit, while the sum of N550.59 billion from the projected incremental revenues was allocated at the discretion of National Assembly.