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Lawan defends National Assembly as Buhari kicks over budget adjustment

Senate President Ahmad Lawan has defended the adjustments made to the 2022 budget by the National Assembly.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan has defended the adjustments made to the 2022 budget by the National Assembly.

The parliament had added N735.85 billion to the N16.391 trillion proposal that President Muhammadu Buhari presented before it in October.

At a brief ceremony attended by Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; and the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Buhari signed the N17.127 trillion budget into law.

The President said also signed the 2021 Finance Bill.

The Bill was handed over to the President for signing by his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare.

“The Minister will provide the public with the details of the budget as passed by the National Assembly, and signed into law by me,” he said.

Buhari also expressed strong reservations on the “worrisome changes” made by the National Assembly to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal.

He announced that he would revert to the National Assembly with a request for amendment as soon as the Assembly resumes to ensure that critical ongoing projects cardinal to the 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.

“Some of the worrisome changes are as follows:

“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 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.

Buhari said 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.

Lawan reacts

While fielding questions from State House reporters, the Senate President said nobody should worry about some of the observations raised by the President as he was happy with majority of what the National Assembly had done.

“This is based on judgments when we asked for more resources coming from the independent sources, especially from the government owned enterprises of about N400 to N500 billion is because we believe that this government owned enterprises should contribute even much more. In fact, I hold the opinion that they should have contributed about a trillion, at least not N500 billion or so.”

“So, I believe that the National Assembly was right in its judgment, but there is nothing wrong in the executive arm of government coming back to the National Assembly to see how we are able to dialogue and go through the process and see where the misunderstanding is. But I don’t think that is supposed to be worrisome development for us.

“As for the observations Mr President has raised, this is a natural and logical tendency between the executive and the legislature. Sometimes, our views on certain issues may not be necessarily the same kind of views that the executive will have and hold on any particular matter.

“I’m happy that the President signed the budget in the first place. And he said, it’s going back to the National Assembly to seek for amendments or virement, and this is natural, logical, legislative process. So, I’m happy that we have done our own part in our own way.”

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