Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has finally signed into law, the 2014 spending plan of 4.7 trillion naira ($29 billion), five months into the year as a result of some disputes with lawmakers.
The budget of Africa’s biggest oil producer is based on a crude output of 2.388 million barrels a day at a benchmark price of $77.5 a barrel and an exchange rate of 160 naira to the dollar. Total spending for the year will reach 4.96 trillion naira, with the addition of 268 billion naira in savings from the reduction of fuel subsidies in 2012, according to the Finance Ministry.
The President immediately handed the signed budget to the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Director, Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu for implementation.
Speaking to newsmen, Okonjo-Iweal said that the late signing of the budget will not hamper the running of the economy, adding: “the effect of the late passage has been effectively minimal.’’
She estimated the budget deficit at around 1 percent of the size of the economy, which is Africa’s biggest.
In medium-term expenditure proposals sent to lawmakers in September, Jonathan said revenue from crude exports was expected to drop in 2014 due to output disruptions caused by theft from pipelines. Nigeria depends on oil for about 80 percent of government funds and more than 95 percent of foreign income, according to the Finance Ministry.
The budget is the last before the 2015 election year, when Jonathan as well as lawmakers and state governors are due to seek new mandates in general elections, though Jonathan has not said whether he plans to stand for re-election.
Lawmakers in both houses of parliament passed a budget of 4.7 trillion naira last month. Investors are monitoring Africa’s top oil producer for signs that spending will surge in a pre-election year as it did before the 2011 presidential vote, when it climbed 17 percent.
Okonjo-Iweala said yesterday the government will stick to its economic growth forecast of 6.75 percent for this year even after a series of bomb attacks by Islamist militants left hundreds dead, threatening to undermine investor confidence.
Meanwhile, there was uproar on the floor of the Senate yesterday following a perceived re-introduction of 2014 budget proposal of some federal agencies for consideration by the senators.
The senators were agitated over an entry titled: `2014 budget proposal of Federal Government parastatals’, which was listed in the day’s Order Paper.
The senators unanimously condemned the attempt to present another budget for the federal agencies which were already captured in the recently passed 2014 national budget of N4.6 trillion.
The document read by the Deputy Senate Leader, Sen. Abdul Ningi contained 2014 Budget estimates for 52 federal agencies including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), among others.
Sen. Smart Adeyemi (PDP-Kogi) described the document as an attempt by the Executive to indirectly return the 2014 budget to the National Assembly through the back door.
“This amounts to indirectly returning the budget to the National Assembly through the back door.
“We have completed work on the budget and it is waiting to be assented to by Mr President.
“So, I do not see any reason for anybody to bring any budget or expenditure of any agency back to the chamber here, ” he reacted.
Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta) said the re-introduction of the 2014 budget document amounted to rubbishing the work already done by senators on the 2014 budget.
Manager urged the senate to reject the document in its entirety because Nigerians were anxiously looked awaited the President’s assent of the the budget
“This is strange. That means the committees did not do anything during the budget defence.
“Almost all the issues here have been dealt with during the budget defence. There are some isolated cases like the CBN.
“The National Assembly and the entire country is expecting our brand new budget to be assented to by Mr President, “he declared.
Also rejecting the document, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia) said: “We have already dealt with the budget.
“And if there is no substantive motion for rescission we can no longer consider anything that comes on this floor as a national budget.”
Similarly, Sen. Ahmed Lawal (APC-Yobe) urged the senators to throw out the document because it did not come as official communication from the President.
“I wish to note that even the tone of the correspondence and the way Rules and Business scheduled this is wrong because this is supposed to be a money bill.
“It should be noted that there was no letter read here with regards to this particular request by Mr President.
Sen. Ayogu Eze (PDP-Enugu) called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the re-introduction of the document by the Rules and Business Committee.
“If we had allowed this to slip through this chamber, it would have been a very dangerous development that would purport and assume on our Order Paper that there was communication from Mr President.
“So, I think that the senate should take a very serious view of this matter and find out where Ita Enang got this letter in the first place,”he urged.
Responding, the Chairman, Rules and Business Committee, Sen. Ita Enang, explained that the document was presented alongside the national budget by the Budget Office.
Enang said the budget document was listed to ensure compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act which required that the budget proposals of the parastatals should be attached to the national budget estimates.
This document is from the Budget Office of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja.
“It came along with the national budget and this is not a document that I in any way had tampered with.
“It was produced and given to the Appropriations Committee and these copies are gotten from the Appropriations Committee and circulated.
Ruling on the matter, the Senate President, Sen. David Mark agreed with Enang that the document was in accordance with the directive that national budget must come with budget of the parastatals.
Mark said the the Rules and Business Committee should have listed out only few parastatals whose budgets were not yet treated because majority were captured in the 2014 budget.
He directed Enang to withdraw the document and list out only those agencies whose budget are yet to be treated before re-introducing the document on the floor of the senate.