- Awaits OPEC decision on oil price
By Christiana Ekpa
Senate has again suspended consideration and debate of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The lawmakers hinged their decision on possible changes in the price of oil, ahead of the OPEC meeting at which producers are expected to extend a supply-cut deal that came into effect in January with the goal of tightening supplies and propping up prices.
The National Assembly, in line with its tradition, has to approve the MTEF-FSP document first before the passage of the 2018 budget proposal.
Following a motion moved by Senate leader Ahmed Lawan and supported unanimously by the Senate, the Upper Chamber decided to wait for the outcome of the OPEC meeting before considering and passing the MTEF.
The debate will continue on Tuesday after a decision might have been taken by OPEC in order to determine the oil benchmark for the MTEF.
The country currently plans a budget of N8.61 trillion for 2018 with more than N4 billion expected to come from oil predicted on oil benchmark price of $45 per barrel and a daily oil production level of 2.3 million barrels.
As lawmakers debate on the proposed 2018 budget; many fear that these assumptions are not quite realistic.
Meanwhile, debate on the 2018 budget continued on the floor of the Senate as lawmakers who spoke stressed the need for the National Assembly to resist the temptation of increase benchmark oil price.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim, in his contribution noted that the oil production estimate of 2.3 million barrels per day, same as the estimate for 2017, is ambitious but achievable.
The Katsina South senator equally stressed the need for the National Assembly to resist the temptation to increase the benchmark oil price for the purpose of estimating budget revenues and the lobby to cancel excess crude account that now holds $2.6b.
The lawmaker said that efforts must, however, be geared toward maintaining the current level of peace and harmony in the oil producing region of Niger Delta.
On benchmark crude oil price of $45 per barrel, Ibrahim noted that whereas Nigeria may be lucky to have sustained oil price above the benchmark.
The lawmaker said that planned capital expenditure to build critical infrastructure such as the Mambilla hydro power project, transmission lines and substations, the 2nd Niger Bridge, strategic roads, standard gauge rail lines and National Housing programme are potential game changers.
He said efforts should be made to guarantee expedited completion of projects and accommodate private investment to augment government earnings.
Also Senator Ibrahim Danbaba in his contribution stated that the capital component of the Budget is inadequate.
He suggested that the Benchmark of oil price be raised to $50 Dollars, and also faulted the implementation process of previous budgets.
Senator Adeola Solomon from Lagos west, faulted the consistent disregard for due process in the budgeting process.
He decried non submission of the Budget performance indices for 2017, saying that the document ought to serve as guide to lawmakers while considering the 2018 budget.
Also his contribution, Senator Jubril Barau said that he is not convinced that the budget as presented by the government is implementable.
Barau’s position was predicated on the fact that Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) upon which annual budget hinges, was still in the offing in the Senate.
He also posited that it was wrong from the legal point of view.
“MTEF is still with Senate and what basis did the executive prepare its 2018 appropriation. This is legally wrong anywhere.”
Barau who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND faulted abysmal allocation of funds to the tune of 7% to education contrary to the United Nations standard of 24% of the total budget.
Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who also faulted the assumptions of the budget, said that the country would need divine intervention to make the budget implementable.
On the contrary, Senator Nelson Effiong representing Akwa Ibom South Senatorial district commended the Federal government over implementation of 2017 budget, saying that the nation had just passed through recession.
According to him, government had done well to exit the nation out of recession.
He further said, it was appropriate that the 2018 was tagged on consolidation.
However, senate having concluded debate, put on hold, the voting on the second reading of the budget pending the consideration and passage of the MTEF by next week.