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Published On: Wed, Dec 18th, 2019

Speed wins the race

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The National Assembly, Dec. 5, passed the 2020 Federal Appropriation Bill. President Muhammadu Buhari presented it during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives Oct. 8, slightly over two months ago. The clean copy of the bill was transmitted to him two weeks ago and the President, dutifully, signed it into law yesterday.
In the original bill, Buhari had sought approval to spend N10.33 trillion in the year 2020. However, the federal lawmakers, in their wisdom, increased the size of the budget to about N10.6 trn, exactly N10,594,362,364,830.
Thereafter, the Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Appropriation which broke it down to subheads and referred each to the relevant committee. The committees held defence sessions with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on their budgets. That took two weeks. The Appropriation Committee received their reports and, a month later, gave the Senate a final report. Presented by Committee Chairman Barau Jibrin, the report said N560.47 billion was for statutory transfers (a category into which the National Assembly budget falls).
While the Senate maintained the daily production rate at 2.18 million per barrel, it however, increased the oil benchmark price to $57 per barrel against the $55 proposed by the executive. It retained inflation rate at 10.81 per cent and the exchange rate at N305-$1 as proposed by the executive. It also retained GDP growth rate at 2.93 per cent as proposed. Both the Senate and House reviewed the report and passed it the same day.
Two things stood out from the way the National Assembly handled the 2020 budget bill. One is the speed at which it passed the bill and secondly, its decision to alter the financial year to run from January to December. Before this present 9th NASS, it took federal parliamentarians months, sometimes half a year, to pass the budget. Often it was deliberate in order to extract financial inducement from the executive. The repercussion was immediate: capital projects suffered because of delayed releases of funds. Now, this hurdle has been scaled by the early passage of the 2020 budget.
The return of the budget cycle from January to December is another feather in NASS’ cap. It means the executive can timeline development projects against fund releases. Implementation will be faster and carryovers avoided. This is a job well done.

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