By Festus Fifen.
After weeks of speculations and uncertainty, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo has eventually signed the 2017 appropriations bill into law.
The over N7trillion budget proposal assent was done after President Muhammadu Buhari gave a go-ahead to the Acting President to endorse the document.
Osinbajo who signed the budget at about 4:30pm, expressed displeasure over the slight increase in the budgetary appropriations by the National Assembly, saying it may distort the executive in the implementation process.
President Buhari presented a budget estimates of N7.28 trillion to NASS in December 2016 but as the time of passage it was shored up to N7.44trillion by the lawmakers who introduced some other projects into the Budget.
According to the Acting President, “from the reports we received, the sessions were generally conducted in a friendly atmosphere. There is no doubt that our democracy is maturing.
“However, the final presentation and the signing of the budget has been considerably delayed. This was largely due to disagreements we had about the changes introduced to our 2017 Budget proposals by the National Assembly.
“The executive took the view that the changes fundamentally affected some of our priority programmes and would make implementation extremely difficult and in some cases impossible”.
He lauded the National Assembly for smooth passage of the budget which he said would go down history as a budget that witnessed rancour free process when compared to that of 2016.
He also gave indications that government would go for virement where necessary during the implementation process.
“In summary the engagements yielded acceptable results . The most important being that the leadership of the National Assembly has given us a commitment that the National Assembly will re-instate the budgetary allocations for all the important executive projects, such as the railway standard gauge projects, the Mambilla Power Project, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway etc. which they had reduced to fund some of the new projects they introduced.
“This re-instatement will be by way of an application for virement by the Executive which they have agreed will be expeditiously considered and approved by the National Assembly”.
The Ag. President added that the budget held the prospects of exiting Nigeria out of recession completely,adding that components of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plans(ERGP) have been encapsulated in the new Appropriations Act.
In his words, “The 2017 Budget, which I have signed into law today, is christened “Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth” and reflects our commitment to ensure strong linkage between the medium-term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) recently launched by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and the annual budgets.
“It is designed to bring the Nigerian economy out of recession unto a path of sustainable and inclusive growth. The budget has a revenue projection of N5.08 trillion and an aggregate expenditure of N7.44 trillion. The projected fiscal deficit of N2.36 trillion is to be financed largely by borrowing.
“Let me assure those who have expressed concern about the growing public debt that we are taking several actions to grow government revenues as well as plug revenue leakages. This is because, notwithstanding the fact that our borrowings are still within sustainability limits, we are determined, in the medium term, to reduce our reliance on borrowings to finance our expenditures.
“As you are all aware, our economy is already signaling a gradual recovery as growth is headed towards positive territory. First quarter GDP, at -0.52% compares favourably with -2.06% in the first quarter of 2016.
“Inflation is declining – down to 17.24% from 18.74% as at May 2016. Our external reserves are now US$30.28 billion as at June 8, 2017 up from US$26.59 billion as at May 31, 2016.
“We are also gradually instilling confidence in our exchange rate regime. This improvement in GDP growth and other macro-economic indicators is largely attributable to our strategic implementation of the 2016 Budget as well as stronger macroeconomic management and policy coordination.
“I am confident that the 2017 Budget will deliver positive economic growth and prosperity – one that is self-sustaining and inclusive. In this regard, the 2017 budget will be implemented in line with our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“Over the 2017-2020 plan period, we are focusing on five (5) key execution priorities, namely: Stabilizing the macroeconomic environment;Agriculture and Food security.
“Others are Energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products,improved transportation infrastructure; and industrialization through support for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs),”The Acting President stated.
The Acting President also gave indications that part of the 2017 budget would be implemented using some of the recovered funds from corrupt cases, especially with the aid of the whistleblowing policy recently instituted by government.
“Our fight against corruption is yielding positive results. Some of the recoveries are included in the 2017 Budget which will be expended on identifiable capital projects.
“Already, we are beginning to see some improvement in the quality of public expenditure. This is great motivation for us to remain resolute in our fight against corruption so that economic prosperity is enjoyed by all Nigerians.
“Let me reiterate that the implementation of our 2017 Budget will bring added impetus to our ongoing economic recovery. We will intensify our economic diversification efforts in our bid to expand opportunities for wealth creation and employment, thereby creating inclusive and sustainable growth,”he said.
A statement earlier released by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu before the assent of the Acting President gave indications that the assent was in line with Buhari’s wish.
Garba’s statement read,”Following the receipt of a full brief on the 2017 Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly, and to buttress the unity at the highest level of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that it is in the interest of the nation’s economy for the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to sign the Appropriation Bill into law.
“In a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed and addressed to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the President also said he was “pleased by the joint resolution that the Executive would submit next year’s budget proposals by October 2017 and the National Assembly will conclude the Appropriation process by December 2017, so that the country can return to a normal fiscal period from next year onwards.”