By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Senate has extended the implementation of capital projects captured in the 2020 budget till 31st March, 2021.
The approval for extension was at the heel of a request to the National Assembly by the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, to that effect, which necessitated the speedy consideration and passage of the 2020 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 introduced on the floor during plenary on Wednesday.
Leading debate on the bill during its second reading, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC – Kebbi North) while citing the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), lamented the low implementation rate of capital projects in the 2020 Appropriations Act.
According to him, an amendment to the Act by the National Assembly became imperative, given that its provisions only allow budget implementation to run for a period of 12 months, starting from the 1st day of January to 31st day of December, 2020.
He, however, blamed the low implementation of capital projects in the budget on the COVID-19 pandemic which necessitated a lockdown by the Federal Government between March and May this year.
“The 2020 capital budget implementation has progressed at a low speed due to mainly the unforeseen prolonged lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a result of the above, most of the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government (MDAs) were projected to have a huge unutilized balance, as much as 70 per cent of their capital releases by the expiration of the 2020 Appropriation Act as provided for in the relevant section of that Act.
“And also, we would note that during the hard time of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the Ministries were operating on a very light mode.
“In fact, most of those (MDAs) that were concerned with the official work – level 14 down – were ordered not to come to work at all, and these were the major people who were the implementation arm of the various MDAs.
“Therefore, a lot of the work in the implementation of the capital projects of the Ministries were not undertaken because of the lockdown,” the Senate Leader said.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC – Kebbi Central), while throwing his weight behind the extension of capital expenditure in the 2020 budget, underscored the need to implement same to 70 or 80 percent, so as to inflate the economy, warning that doing otherwise would “keep the budget in flight mode.”
On his part, the Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC – Niger North) argued that extending the implementation of the 2020 budget for three months would afford the Nigerian economy the required closure.
Consequently, the Senate in a Committee of Supply, amended Section 12 of the 2020 Appropriations Act.
The amended section which was subsequently passed by the Upper Chamber reads: “Section 12 is hereby amended by adding a proviso to wit: provided that the implementation of the Capital Expenditure in the 2020 Appropriations Bill shall lapse on 31st March, 2020.”