• Lawmakers oppose Buhari’s request for virement
• FG releases N100b Sukuk fund for road projects
• Finance minister lied on budget funding
Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday declared that the inability of the Federal Government to implement over 50 per cent of the N7.4 trillion budget for 2017 would jerk the 2018 spending proposals to over N10 trillion.
In his remarks during the debate on the implementation of the 2017 budget on the floor of the Senate, Saraki said: “If the implementation of the 2017 budget is going to be 50 per cent, it means we should expect to have a budget of N10 trillion in 2018. I hope the executive takes note of that.”
The Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had disclosed on Tuesday that 60 per cent of the 2017 budget would be rolled over to 2018.Saraki dismissed as untrue reports that the Senate has refused to approve a request from the president for a loan to fund the budget. He said all requests from President Buhari were approved before the National Assembly embarked on its annual recess in July, 2017. He said the claims by Adeosun on Tuesday were false.
“There is no request before us about borrowing that we have not approved. We approved all the requests before we went on break. I needed to make this explanation because of what the Minister of Finance said that the National Assembly is holding on to borrowing requests sent by the executive,” Saraki said.
Adeosun, had on Tuesday, while giving a report on the level of the implementation of the 2017 budget, before a joint committee of the Senate on Appropriation and Finance, claimed that the Federal Government could not fund capital projects because the National Assembly was yet to approve loan requests from the president.The lawmakers accused some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government of failure to remit revenues into the Federation Account.
The accusation was made in a report presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Mohammad Danjuma Goje, on the level of implementation of the 2017 budget.Although he did not reveal the identities of the MDAs, he said the revenue leakages must be blocked and agencies involved sanctioned to guide against a repeat.
Saraki, who presided, said: “The executive must carry out the implementation of the budget in line with what is passed. They should not go about selective implementation of the budget. If they want to borrow, they should not hesitate to send their requests.”The Senate adopted the recommendations of the joint committee on appropriation and finance which stated, among others, that “necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the executive does not embark on selective implementation of the budget.”
The Senate also approved the recommendation that the executive must ensure the implementation of 50 per cent of the budget, and that the 2018 appropriation bill should be passed when brought to the National Assembly without any delay.
“There are revenue leakages of operating surpluses that agencies are not remitting to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR). We should encourage the executive that all MDAs should be properly captured and catered for in the budget. The executive should be encouraged to block all leakages in all its agencies,” the report added.
The upper chamber also asked that the use of operating surplus of internally generated revenue of government-owned enterprises like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in funding the national budget be properly explored.Also, the Senate may not be willing to grant Buhari’s request for the 2017 virement of funds made in July this year as it declared it unconstitutional.
The chamber argued that money under Appropriation Act could not be vired as it would be contrary to the provisions of sections 4(84) of the constitution.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday faulted the request on the floor of the Senate. ‘There are only two ways you can spend money from the consolidated revenue fund of the federation. One is by appropriation process, pursuant to section 80(2) of the constitution and by a supplementary appropriation pursuant to section 80(4) of the constitution.
“And so if we provide in the Appropriation Act that money can be vired, I believe that will be contrary to the provisions of sections 4(84) of the constitution’.“Section 80(4) says if in respect of any financial year it is found that the amount appropriated for by the Appropriation Act for any purpose is insufficient, or a need has arisen for expenditure for purposes for which no amount has been appropriated by the Act, a supplementary estimate showing the sums required shall be laid before each arm of the National Assembly,” he explained.
According to Ekweremadu, the executive does not have the interest to seek supplementary appropriation bill but looks for shortcut of the virement.“What we noticed is that the executive doesn’t seem to be interested in this supplementary appropriation bill, rather they seek the short cut of the virement. We try to encourage this by providing in our Appropriation Act the need for the process of virement which in itself contradicts section 80(4) of the constitution. Spending public fund is a serious business. Going forward in the next Appropriation Act, there should not be any provision for virement.That is not righ,” Ekweremadu submitted.
Dino Melaye said the budget was extremely too young to be vired.“The budget is still a baby that has not even been implemented and we want to vire. If the content of this viremernt had major restructuring of the budget as passed, then it is a major indictment of the National Assembly that the executive was not in agreement with our works.
“But if what they are asking for is minor virement, we will look at it and if necessary vire, but if there is a major restructuring of the budget as passed in 2017, then it is a complete rubbishing of what the Senate and the House of Representatives had done on the 2017 budget.”
Emmanuel Bwacha, Senate Deputy Minority Leader, cautioned the executive against selective implementation of 2017budget. Saraki, who in his remarks said the executive did not carry out the appropriation, referred the matter to the committee on appropriation to weigh the issues raised and report back in two weeks.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister, Adeosun has released the proceeds of the N100 billion Sukuk bond for the construction of 25 key road projects of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing across the six geo- political zones of the country.Adeosun yesterday in Abuja handed over the N100 billion proceeds cheque to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola.
The Federal Government had issued for the first time the Sovereign Sukuk of N100 billion being investment for the specific road projects in September 2017, which was successfully completed last week. The Sukuk bond has a tenor of seven years.Presenting the cheque, Adeosun revealed that the Sukuk offer was oversubscribed to the tune of N105.87 billion, explaining that the milestone was a sign of confidence in the Nigerian economy and the administration of President Buhari.
A statement by Mr. Olayinka Akintunde, the Special Assistant on Media to the Finance Minister, quoted Adeosun as saying that the Sukuk proceeds would unlock the potentials of Nigeria.“This is the first Sukuk bond issuance for Nigeria. It is about financial inclusion and deepening of our financial markets. The proceeds will be used to further support government’s capital spending for 2017 – the construction and rehabilitation of 25 key economic roads across the six geo-political zones of the country,” the statement said.
Under the arrangement each of the geo-political zones of the country is expected to receive N16.67 billion for road projects in their respective zones. Earlier, Fashola, commended Adeosun, the Director-General of Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, and the financial advisers for the bond issuance for their painstaking efforts. He assured the ministry’s contractors that the Federal Government is committed to the funding of its infrastructural projects across the country.