By Bassey Udo
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday signed into law the 2022 Appropriation Bill and the 2021 Finance Bill.
Performing the ceremony at State House in Abuja, the President frowned at the several alterations to the budget proposal by lawmakers in the process of approving the Bill.
Also, he used the occasion to remind heads of Ministries, Dapartments and Agencies that his administration was in its last lap and the need for them to commence early preparation of the 2023 Transition Budget for submission to the National Assembly.
The President also urged them to work with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning as well as the Budget Office of the Federation, towards their timely submission of the 2023-2025 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, said the assent to the 2022 Appropriation Act was in line with the administration’s commitment to keep the January to December fiscal year.
On hand to witness the signing of the Bill were senior government officials, including the Senate President Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Ministers, and other members of the Executive Council of the Federation.
Details of the Appropriation Act 2022 showed provisions for aggregate expenditures of N17.127 trillion approved by the lawmakers, an increase of about N735.85 billion over the initial proposal for about N16.391 trilliontotal expenditure
the President submitted.
Buhari said of the increment to the approved expenditure, about N186.53 billion was as a result of additional critical expenditures approved by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and forward to the National Assembly.
‘‘The Minister will provide the public with the details of the budget as passed by the National Assembly, and signed into law by me,’’ he said.
The President drew attention to the series of ‘‘worrisome changes’’ made by the lawmakers to the Budget proposals he sent in to the National Assembly for consideration and approval.
“It is in this regard that I must express my reservations about many of the changes the National Assembly has made to the 2022 Executive Budget proposal,” he said.
Although he said the implementation of the 2022 Appropriation Act would commence on January 1, 2022, he said he would return to the National Assembly with a formal request for amendment to serious alterations to the budget immediately the lawmakers reconvene in the New year, to ensure critical ongoing projects by the government were not starved of the necessary funding.
The 2022 fiscal year, he said, would be very crucial in his administration’s efforts to complete critical signature projects, to boost the general living conditions of the people.
He identified some of the alterations by the lawmakers to include increment in projected Federal Government independent revenue provision by N400 billion, without any justification to the Executive;
reduction in the provision for Sinking Fund to Retire Maturing Bonds by N22 billion without any explanation;
reduction of the provisions for the non-regular allowances of the Nigerian Police Force, and the Nigerian Navy by N15 billion and N5 billion respectively.
These changes, which the President described as particularly worrisome, was because they have to do with personnel cost provisions based on agencies’ nominal roll and approved salaries/allowances.
Other changes included an increase of N21.72 billion in the overhead budgets of some MDAs, apart from about N1.96 billion cut from the allocation to some MDAs without any justification, and an increase in the provision for Capital spending (excluding Capital share in Statutory Transfer) by a net amount of N575.63 billion, from N4.89 trillion to N5.47 trillion.’
Besides, Buhari also frowned at the cut in the provisions for some key projects, including N12.6 billion in the Ministry of Transport’s budget for the ongoing Rail Modernisation projects; N25.8 billion from Power Sector Reform Programme under the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; N14.5 billion from several projects of the Ministry of Agriculture, and injection of over 1,500 new projects into the budgets of the Ministry and its agencies.
Other questionable inclusions in the budget identified by the President included new provisions totaling N36.59 billion for National Assembly’s projects in the Service Wide Vote, saying this contravenes “the principles of separation of Powers and financial autonomy of the Legislative arm of government.”
‘‘The changes to the original Executive proposal are in the form of new insertions, outright removals, reductions and/or increases in the amounts allocated to projects.
‘‘Provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects were reduced, while 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly without justifications.
‘‘Reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment’ projects.
‘‘The cuts in the provisions for several of these projects by the National Assembly may render the projects unimplementable, or set back their completion, especially some of this administration’s strategic capital projects.
‘‘Most of the projects inserted relate to matters that are basically the responsibilities of State and Local Governments, and do not appear to have been properly conceptualised, designed and costed.
‘‘Many more projects have been added to the budgets of some MDAs with no consideration for the institutional capacity to execute the additional projects and/or for the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required,’’ the President lamented.
Despite the increase in projected revenue by about N609.27 billion, the President expressed surprise that additional Executive request of N186.53 billion for critical expenditure items could not be accommodated without increasing the deficit, while about N550.59 billion from the projected incremental revenues was allocated at the discretion of National Assembly.
On the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of the 2021 Budget, the President said he was happy with the success achieved, pointing out that of the provisionn made for execution of capital projects by MDAs during the fiscal year, about N3.94 trillion was fully released.
To enable MDAs to complete the implementation of their 2021 capital projects and optimise the impact of the capital budget on the economy, he said MDAs are allowed to continue to expend the funds released for their 2021 capital budgets till March 31, 2022.
‘‘As the 2022 Budget will be the last full year budget to be implemented by our Administration, its effective implementation is very critical for delivering our legacy projects, promoting social inclusion and strengthening the resilience of the economy.
‘‘The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning will implement all measures required to ensure timely and targeted release of capital votes.
‘‘All MDAs are to effect early commencement of project implementation, while ensuring productive use of funds provided for achievement of the objectives set for their sectors.
‘‘Considering the incidence of new COVID-19 variants globally, we will ensure timely implementation of measures provided for in the 2022 Budget to contain the spread of the virus and protect our people.
‘‘We continue to count on the collaboration of the State governments in our effort to protect the lives and livelihood of our people.’’
President Buhari promised that his administration would further intensify revenue mobilisation efforts to help realise set objectives in the 2022 Appropriation Act.
On the capacity of the government to finance the budget, the President said he was optimistic the positive outlook in the global oil market would continue, apart from the improving non-oil revenues.
On the deficit budget, the President said his administration has a specific Borrowing Plan it would forward to the National Assembly for consideration and approval in the New year, urging the cooperation of the National Assembly for a quick attention.
He promised that all borrowings would be judiciously utilised and invested in the future growth and prosperity of the economy.