Presidency rejects final budget submitted by National Assembly; Buhari withholds assent

Posted by News Express | 10 April 2016 | 3,658 times

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President Muhammadu Buhari has withheld assent to the 2016 Budget following discrepancies noticed in the clean copy submitted to his office on Thursday by the National Assembly, News Express can report this morning.

A well-placed Presidency source told News Express on Saturday evening: “The President had indicated that he will review details of the 2016 Budget Ministry by Ministry when it is received from the National Assembly to ensure that what is passed is in line with his strategic agenda for the country

The National Assembly transmitted the details to the President on Thursday, April 7, 2016 and because he was desirous of giving assent to the Appropriation Bill before leaving for China, he directed that the Ministers should review the provisions/appropriations of their respective ministry to fast-track the process.”

The source disclosed that Buhari could not sign the budget before today’s trip to China because during Friday’s emergency cabinet meeting presided over by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who is the Head of the Economic Team, “it was noticed that some very key aspects of the Budget, which have to do with government’s core infrastructural focus were removed.”

Giving details of the areas of disagreement, the source said: “One of which is the subject of the President’s trip to China – the Coastal Railway project – for which a counterpart funding of N60bn was provided, but which was completely removed by the National Assembly. The Executive is working on two major rail arteries, among other rail projects, to service the northern and eastern part of the country – the Lagos-Kano line and the Calabar – Lagos line. While the Lagos-Kano provision was left untouched, the Calabar – Lagos line was removed. The projects are to be funded jointly between the governments of China and Nigeria. It is one of the main reasons for the President’s scheduled trip to China.

“Also, the amount proposed for the completion of the Idu-Kaduna rail project which has reached an advanced stage was reduced by N8.7bn, a development which will make it difficult for the project to be completed.

“The other fundamental area noticed was in respect of completion of on-going road projects. While the Executive had provided for the completion of all major road projects across the country, the National Assembly reduced the amounts provided and instead included new roads which studies have not even been conducted. The amounts provided by the National Assembly for the projects can neither complete the on-going road projects nor the new ones proposed. At the end of the year no significant progress would have been made.

“The other is in the health sector. Proposals made for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns like Polio and AIDs for which the store is fast depleting were removed and the amounts allocated to provision of ambulance, which the Ministry did not ask for.

It was also observed that certain provisions made in the areas of Agriculture and Water Resources to further the Federal Government’s diversification project where either removed or reduced while the funds were moved to provision of rural health facilities and boreholes, for which provisions have been made elsewhere.”

According to the Presidency source, “Because of these observations, the President is engaging further with the leadership of the National Assembly to resolve them and hopes that it would be resolved for his assent by the time he returns from his trip to China.

“The President is desirous of signing the bill into law so that implementation of the provisions could begin in earnest for the benefit of the people. That is why the moment he received the document on Thursday, a meeting was convened for Friday to immediately start work on it.”

•Photo shows President Buhari during the 2016 Budget presentation to the National Asembly last December.

Source: News Express

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