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Published On: Thu, Apr 10th, 2014

Senate jerks 2014 budget by N52.23bn

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Nigerian-Senate-1By Ikechukwu Okaforadi & Mohammed Umar Puma

Senate yesterday passed the 2014 budget, in which it jerked by N52, 230 billion, the original amount proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan for expenditures in the 2014 fiscal year.

This is even as the upper legislative chamber approved N150 billion for the National Assembly in the 2014 fiscal year, which would be transferred from the N408,687,801,891 budgeted by the lawmakers as statutory transfers.

President Goodluck Jonathan, in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) forwarded to the National Assembly last year, had proposed to spend N4, 642 billion this year.

However, the lawmakers, after spending five months, allegedly in a cold war with the President over contentious issues concerning the budget, in addition to constituency projects of the lawmakers, suddenly passed a budget of N4, 695 billion yesterday.

In addition to the passed budget figure above, the Senate further passed the N268, 370 billion which was what the executive proposed in the MTEF for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) in 2014.

Based on this increment, the Statutory Transfer for which the President had budgeted N399, 687 billion, was increased by the Senate to N408. 687 billion while the N712 billion proposed by the President for Debt Servicing was retained as such by the lawmakers.

Similarly, the recurrent expenditure for which the President budgeted N2.430 billion was slightly increased to N2, 454 billion by the Senate.

In addition, the N1, 100 billion, which the President had budgeted for Capital Projects in 2014, was increased by the lawmakers to N1, 119 billion by the Senate.

Note that the Senate based the 2014 budget on the parameters of N160 to US$1 exchange rate, inflation rate of 9.5 percent and Gross Domestic Product Growth Rate of 6.75 percent.

Other parameters are Crude Oil Production capacity of 2.3883 million barrel per day, and Oil Benchmark Price of US$77.50 per barrel.

Meanwhile, of the N408, 687 billion approved by Senate for Statutory Transfers, N150 billion will go to the National Assembly, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would receive N45 billion from the amount budgeted for statutory transfers.

Also, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) would receive N49.030 billion, while National Human Right Commission would receive N1.350 billion and Universal Basic Education would receive N70, 470 billion from the statutory transfers.

Similarly, N663.610 billion was approved by the lawmakers for servicing of Domestic Debts, while N48.390billion was earmarked also for servicing of Foreign Debts.

In the 2014 budget, education topped the budget chat with N373.532 billion budget for this year, followed by Defence, which has N314.347 billion for the fiscal year. Office of the Special Adviser to President on Special Duties, followed by Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) have N104.591 million and N541. 226 million respectively to become the least in the 2014 budget chart

Speaking after the Bill was passed, the Senate President, David Mark, urged the various ministries, departments and agencies of government to follow the same tempo to ensure that the budget is fully implemented to better the lives of Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said it will begin consideration of the 2014 Appropriation Bill with a view to passing same today after a closed-door meeting that lasted for over two hours, on the Budget.

Source at the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity said the “House has resolved its differences and the budget will be passed tomorrow (today)”.

The N4.642trillion money bill, which was brought to the House last year December has a 70 percent overhead-recurrent (salaries and other items) component, with a paltry 30 percent for Capital (infrastructure)

A member of the APC, Rep Emmanuel Jime, (APC Benue), had earlier in a motion raised under Matters of Urgent National Importance urged the House to reject the Budget as proposed until the parliament was served with details of Ministries’ and agencies’ proposals in line with section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The Motion was adopted.

A Federal High Court would later strengthen the position of the House by ordering the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to comply with the House’ resolution by providing details of the Budget.

Though the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Rep John Enoh (PDP-Cross River) had earlier told the House that details of the budget were received, the controversy raged on.

Though section 80 of the 1999 Constitution gives the National Assembly powers over the Budget, section 315 which is yet to be amended, donates same powers nominally to the President to amend laws passed by National Assembly, including the budget.

It is expected that with the passage of the Appropriation Bill by both chambers of the National Assembly, Harmonization Committees would be empanelled by them to smoother the rough edges expected to come as a result of discrepancies in figures passed by both chambers.

The resolution of the Harmonization Committee becomes the actual budget passed by the National Assembly which would in turn be forwarded to the President for assent.

Also, yesterday the Senate yesterday shelved its plans to re-amend the amended 1999 Constitution, such as to allow President of Nigeria, in addition to the National Assembly, to initiate the process of drafting new constitution for Nigeria, as proposed by its committee on Constitution Review last week.

The Senate Committee on review of 1999 Constitution, headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, had sought the approval of the Senate to alter section 9 of the 1999 Constitution, by adding another sub-section (a) and (b), to allow the President to initiate the process of drafting new constitution.

In view of the National Conference going on, most of the lawmakers who spoke on the plan, criticised it on the basis that it implies relinquishing the traditional powers of the parliament to the executive.

This is even as some of the senators condemned the proposal on the assumption that it is a back door of legalising the resolutions by delegates at the national conference, as the Nigeria’s new constitution.

Therefore, a lot of them rejected the proposal, calling for the maintenance of the status quo, but the Senate President, David Mark, suspended voting to yesterday, to enable the lawmakers vote electronically to make the stands of the senators clear.

However, after yesterday’s passage of the 2014 budget, the Senate Leader introduced the matter to enable the senators vote individually, but before the lawmakers could commence voting, the Deputy Senate President declared that the committee has decided to withdraw the planned further amendment, saying the decision was in line with the minds and mood of the senators.

According to the Deputy Senate President, who told the Senate yesterday that the committee, in its own wisdom has decided to withdraw clause 9 of the proposal, said “During debates on the proposed amendment to Section 9, there were some issues that arose, and the Committee on Constitution Review decided to meet yesterday (Tuesday), to review some aspect of our proposals.

“The Committee resolved and mandated me to seek the indulgence of the Senate to withdraw further amendment to the Section. But every other item would remain. So, on behalf of the Committee, I make this solemn application”.

Meanwhile, the number of senators at yesterday’s plenary would not be sufficient to get the required two third majority of the entire Senate for the proposal to scale through, hence the Senate deferred voting on the amendments to another legislative day.

On the withdrawal of the controversial clause 9, Mark said “the committee acted rightly as the clause generated intense debate among senators last week. The committee in its own wisdom decided to withdraw it, that is the right thing for the committee to do, it shows they are sensible, so we defer voting on this till another legislative day and that amendment withdrawn”.

Other provisions of the amendment is to alter Section 68 and 109 of the Constitution to mandate the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Clerks of States Houses of Assembly to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in writing in seven days, of the existence of a vacancy arising from death, resignation or defection of a member of the National Assembly or a member of the State House of Assembly respectively.

Others are alteration of Section 134 and 179, which aim to extend the time for conducting presidential and governorship re-run election from seven days to 21 days as contained in Clause 4.

Also, INEC is seeking for an extension of the seven days to 21 days after results have been announced.

The bill further seeks to empower INEC to de-register political parties which fail to win presidential, governorship, chairmanship of a local government area council, or a seat in the National or States Assembly elections.

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