By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
Indications emerged yesterday that the Senate may fail to meet up with the passage of the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget before December ends as signs of fresh crisis brewing between the executive and the legislature over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) surfaced yesterday.
Recall that President Mohammadu Buhari had last three weeks submitted the 2018 budget estimates to the joint session of the National Assembly, where he enjoined the lawmakers to give the budget proposal an expeditious consideration.
The federal lawmakers asked him to cooperate with them if he wants the budget to be passed as quickly as he had asked, especially considering the woeful failure of the 2017 budget, which has not met up to 50 per cent implementation.
However, signs that the 2018 budget may be worse in failure compared to that of 2017 became apparent yesterday when the senators queried the critical projections used in the budget proposals as contained in the 2018 -2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Trouble for projections in the proposed budget came when the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, the Director General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze and other top government officials in the financial sector made presentations on the MTEF documents before the members of the senate’s joint committee on MTEF and FSP.
The committee led by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Enoh (APC, Cross River Central ), wondered why the federal government, having woefully failed in meeting its projections of N807bn independent revenue in the N7.444trn 2017 budget, still made similar projections for the 2018 budget.
According to a member of the committee, Senator Ibrahim Danbaba (APC Sokoto South), it was very wrong for the executive to be making unrealistic revenue projections in its yearly budget proposals as contained in the MTEF presentations made to this committee now.
“For example, on Independent Revenue projections alone, in 2017, only N155billion have been realised out of the projected N807bn representing 74% failure and yet as stated in the document, the same projection of N807billion is made for independent revenue generation in the 2018 budget estimates aside other unrealistic ones like revenue from VAT where FG had recorded 47% failure in the 2017 budget etc.
“These yearly unrealistic projections are clearly responsible for poor budget implementations on yearly basis and must be stopped in form of reviewing of the projections”, he said.
A submission re-echoed by the committee chairman and other members like Senators Bukar Mustapha (APC Katsina North), Mao Ohunabuwa (PDP Abia North), Bassey Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North East) etc.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Budget had earlier in her presentation, disclosed to the committee some adjustments made in the MTEF and FSP document before the 2018 budget estimates were presented to the National Assembly penultimate week by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to her, the adjustments basically bordered on projected revenue for the 2018 budget which are N710bn from the restructuring government ‘s equity in all the Joint Venture oil assets (JV), N320bn additional projected revenues from revision of terms to improve Government take in the Production Sharing Contracts.
Others are additional N60bn from Excise Duties on Cigarettes and Alcohol, N305bn as additional Company Income Taxes, N100bn from improvements by FIRS in the collection of value added tax etc.
The DG Budget, who made presentation on key parameters of the budget, explained in details to the committee members why $45 per barrel was propised as oil price bench mark, N305 to a US dollar, exchange rate, 2.3mbpd oil production level , 12.42% projected average inflation rate etc.
The MTEF and FSP documents are expected to be presented to the senate for passage today or tomorrow as announced by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
This, according to him, would pave way for debate on the general principles of the 2018 budget in the senate next week Tuesday and Wednesday.