Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has signed the 2016 budget into law.
This assent has now given way for the full implementation of the budget.
The ceremony was witnessed by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
While the President says that the budget must be able to work for the people, the Senate President said that with the signing of the budget, “what is important now is its implementation”.
The Budget Minister, Udo Udoma, said that the budget size was slightly lower than the figure the executive submitted.
What was eventually signed was 6.6 trillion Naira on the revenue assumption of $38 crude oil price.
Clean Copy Of The Budget
The President had in December 2015 submitted a proposal of 6.7 trillion Naira, of which, 351.3 billion Naira was earmarked for statutory transfers.
One trillion, four hundred and seventy-five billion, three hundred and twenty million Naira was set aside for debt service while two trillion, six hundred and forty-eight billion, six hundred million Naira was earmarked for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure.
Friday’s event comes after the National Assembly submitted a clean copy of the budget to the President. The President had withheld assent after some alterations were noticed in the document.
Strategic Priority Programmes
The government announced on Thursday that it had mapped out 34 strategic priority programmes and projects it intended to achieve with the 2016 budget.
These include a capital spend minimum of 30% annually, an appropriate and predictable exchange regime by the end of 2016, increased low interest lending rate of 9%, self-sufficiency in tomato paste in 2016 and rice production by 2018.
It also plans to increase local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock and to stop import.
President Buhari had submitted the budget to the National Assembly in December 2015 but since then, controversies have surrounded the document, as initially it was reported to have been missing.
A federal lawmaker told Channels Television in January that there were fears that the 2016 budget had disappeared from the National Assembly.
But after a closed-door meeting in the Senate, the Senate spokesman, Aliyu Abdullahi, debunked the claims that the 2016 budget was missing.
“To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any missing budget. What we discussed today is how we are going to work assiduously, as Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to consider the budget as submitted by the President,” the lawmaker told reporters.
He said that efforts were being made to make sure that by the end of February 2016, the budget was ready for approval or assent by the President.
The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, also said that there was no truth to insinuations that the 2016 budget document was missing.
However, there was yet another twist to the saga, as the Senate later revealed that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Senate, Senator Ita Enag, reproduced a budget document different from what President Buhari originally submitted to the National Assembly.
They insisted on considering only the version presented by the President.
Few days after this decision, President Buhari sent a letter to the Senate President notifying the federal lawmakers of some corrected versions in the 2016 budget.
In the letter read on the floor by Senate President Bukola Saraki, President Buhari stated that although there were some alterations in the budget, the figures remained the same.
The Senate then accepted and adopted the alterations in the 2016 Appropriation Bill made by President Muhammadu Buhari.
As the budget debates went on in the National Assembly, another round of controversies started, as the executive claimed that the budget proposals had been distorted by entrenched interests.
The President said that the unauthorised alterations had completely changed the document from the one he presented to the National Assembly.
He said that what he worked with the Minister of Budget and National Planning to develop was not what was finally being debated. “It is very embarrassing and disappointing,” he said.
He then vowed that he would do a ministry-by-ministry review of the 2016 Budget to ensure that what was returned to him remained the same with what his administration submitted to the National Assembly.
NASS Passes 2016 Budget
On March 23, the National Assembly finally passed the 2016 budget of 6.06 trillion Naira.
The budget passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives was 17 billion Naira lower than the figure of 6.07 trillion Naira presented by President Buhari to the National Assembly in December.
The chairmen of Appropriation Committees of both chambers said that the National Assembly had reduced the size of the aggregate expenditure, consequently reducing the total recurrent expenditure, deficit and borrowing plan.
The Senate Committee on Appropriation had earlier presented a budget of 6.06 trillion Naira to the Senate for passage.
In its report, the Committee set recurrent expenditure at 2.6 trillion Naira, capital expenditure at 1.5 trillion Naira and fiscal deficit at 2.2 trillion Naira.
Lagos-Calabar Rail Project
Consequently, the National Assembly on April 6 transmitted the final document through the Clerk to the Presidency saying it had concluded work on the figures.
The chairmen of the appropriation committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, Danjuma Goje and Abdulmumin Jibrin, said it took their committees extra weeks to get the details ready so they could correct all the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding in the document submitted to them in December 2015.
After the National Assembly returned the scrutinised and approved budget to the executive, there were again reports that the budget had been distorted, with some items missing while fresh items were added.
One of such items that became controversial was the Lagos-Calabar Rail Project, which reports quoted the executive as saying that it was included in the budget sent to the National Assembly.
The National Assembly had on different occasions dismissed the claims, saying that the project was not added to the budget submitted to it by President Buhari in December 2015.
To clarify the issues, the Ministry of Budget And Planning came out with its position on the controversies surrounding the 2016 budget.
The ministry in a statement said that the President had not taken a position on the budget after receiving the budget details from the National Assembly on April 7.
It further confirmed that there were indeed some errors in the initial budget proposal sent to the National Assembly by the President in December.
To remedy the situation, the Senate then asked the executive to include the disputed Lagos-Calabar Rail project in a supplementary budget and forward it to the National Assembly.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Senate Spokesman, Aliyu Abubakar, said the Senate was ready and willing to consider a supplementary budget from the executive which would include the rail project.
With matters resolved, Nigerians had high hopes that the budget would soon be signed by the President but there was more delay.
On April 21, in a meeting with journalists in the National Assembly, the Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Abdurazaq Namdas, said that the President had sent a letter to the National Assembly outlining “grey areas” in the 2016 budget that needed to be addressed.
President Buhari then met with the leadership of the National Assembly on the 2016 budget with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara in attendance.
Also present was the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr Udo Udoma.
There, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, told State House correspondents that all parties had agreed on the way forward, assuring them that the process would be completed, with the budget signed in a matter of days.
This turned out to be the final hurdle for the 2016 budget which has been long awaited by economists, industrialists and analysts alike.