Key Changes Made To The 2016 Budget By The National Assembly
The scrutiny of the 2016 budget details by the Federal cabinet at an emergency meeting on Friday has revealed some key changes the National Assembly made to the 2016 budget.
President Buhari had promised to assent to the budget soon after it was passed, but not without critically reviewing the details which the NASS presented to the presidency last week.
The cabinet noticed that some key aspects considered to be government’s core infrastructural focus had been removed from the budget, a development that prevented the president from assenting to the Budget on Saturday before his trip to China on Sunday.
Presidency sources said some of the contentious areas, one of which is the subject of the President’s trip to China – the Coastal Railway project – for which a counterpart funding of N60b was provided, but which was completely removed by the National Assembly.
The coastal railway project, for which the president is travelling to China for a loan, was completely removed by the legislators.
Government earmarked N60billion counterpart funds for it but the NASS removed it completely from the budget details.
The federal government is working on two major rail arteries, among other rail projects, to service the northern and eastern part of the country, namely the Lagos-Kano line and the Calabar-Lagos line.
But while the Lagos-Kano provision was left untouched, the Calabar-Lagos line was removed.
Both projects are to be funded jointly by China and Nigeria. The source said that the amount proposed for the completion of the Idu-Kaduna rail project which “has reached an advanced stage was reduced by N8.7b, a development which will make it difficult for the project to be completed.”
REDUCED FUNDING OR MAJOR ROAD PROJECTS
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,” a source in the know said.
DIVERSION OF FUND FOR RURAL HEALTH FACILITIES
In the health sector, proposals were made for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns such as Polio and AIDS, because the stock is fast depleting, but these were removed.
Instead, allocations were made for the purchase of ambulances – even though the ministry of health did not make such a proposal.
“It was also observed that certain provisions made in the areas of agriculture and water resources to further the federal government’s diversification project were either removed or reduced while the funds were moved to provision of rural health facilities and boreholes, for which provisions have been made elsewhere,” the source added.
A presidency official said Buhari “is hopeful” that these observations would have been resolved by the time he returns from China so that the budget can take off “immediately”.
ALLOCATION FOR DIVERSIFICATION PROJECT CANCELLED OR REDUCED
The diversification plan of the Buhari government especially in the area of agriculture and water resources was also touched by the National Assembly.
They either cancelled some of the projects completely or reduced allocations meant to fund the plan, while the funds were moved to provision of rural health facilities and boreholes, for which provisions have been made elsewhere, a source said.
The source disclosed that Buhari, who had earlier been scheduled to address the nation after signing the budget had to call off the broadcast.
He said: “All the ministers, aside the Defence Minister who was a bit positive about the figures appropriated for his ministry, totally kicked against the so called budget details.
“They said it was mutilated beyond recognition and therefore cannot be implemented under the present condition. Notably, the Minister of Health told the gathering that what was returned to his ministry was even worse than what he kicked against when he went to defend the budget in the National Assembly.
“As a matter of fact, the budget details made nonsense of the planned visit of the President to China because the lawmakers removed that aspect of the loan completely from the details that were scrutinized by the ministers yesterday (Friday).”
Asked what steps the Presidency would take next, the source said two options are open for the President. He said the documents may be sent back to the lawmakers with a detailed note on the mutilation and a call for rectification or he may be persuaded to sign the budget and then ask for modifications.