Senators yesterday threatened to suspend passage of the 2018 budget estimates following the failure of the presidency to keep its promise to implement, at least, 40 percent of the 2017 capital budget and roll over the remaining 60 percent to 2018.
The senate also accused the economic team of unseriousness, and said the ministries, departments and agencies appeared unprepared with verifiable documents to defend their 2018 proposals.
The lawmakers want the 2017 budget implementation to be extended to March 31 to allow the capital projects to be executed so that the 2018 budget will commence from April 1.
The threat followed points of order (42 and 45) moved by the Deputy Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah who pointed out that the chamber would fall into trouble waters should it move ahead to pass the budget this year as earlier planned. He said the senate made the plan without knowing the constraints embedded in the 2018 budget proposal as presented.
“By today, we would have passed the budget or given a tentative date on which we can pass it. From what I have seen, I know we will fall into trouble waters because, for whatever reason, we have not appreciated what the situation is. With the reports we have received so far, we have the 2017 budget which we can say has not been executed as of today and we are considering the 2018 budget.”
Barnabas Gemade said: “The president said more than 60 per cent of what was proposed in the 2017 budget would be carried over to the 2018 budget. But what we have seen is very far from this assertion. First of all there is no clear indication whatsoever that 40 per cent of 2017 capital budget has been implemented. With many MDAs, that percentage is still hovering around 12 to 15 percent.”
Dino Melaye said: “There is an outstanding N1.4 trillion stamp duty that has accumulated with the Central Bank (CBN) but has not been remitted into the federation account.
“In 2016, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was supposed to pay over N300 billion as IGR into the federation account, but no kobo was paid and no kobo has been paid in 2017. All these revenues are hanging and we say we are fighting corruption.
“It is time for the senate to ask these agencies of government to remit such monies. Why are we borrowing when we have monies scattered in the MDAs. The issue of discussing 2018 budget does not arise. We must make sure that the 2017 budget is properly implemented.
“We keep hearing that more releases are made in order to implement the budget but up till now there is no prove whatsoever that the budget has been implemented beyond the 12, 15 percent that we knew in most MDAs.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki lamented the failure to achieve 40 percent implementation of the budget.
“This makes it very difficult for us, we cannot turn into magicians.”
Also yesterday, a member of the finance committee, Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, alleged leakages in NNPC and other revenue generating agencies, blaming the situation for poor budget funding.
“We are talking about leakages, is the NNPC cooperating? It is better we liquidate NNPC because it is no longer relevant. They do not respect anybody. They do not respect us. NNPC has become a drain pipe that should be liquidated.”
But the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who was at the committee for 2018 budget defence said they had started scrutinize and drawing up tighter measures to block revenue leakages. She added that unnecessary budgetary line items were being removed.
Chairman of the committee, John Owan Enoh asked Adeosun why the budget performance of her ministry rose to 64 per cent when the trend they observed is low budget performance.
Joshua Dariye said: “If your budget performance is 64 per cent and in other MDAs it is 15 per cent, then the economy is not balanced. You need to reconcile this.”
Adeosun reiterated that N750 billion had been released to fund capital budget.
Earlier, the minister said the revenue target for 2017 was largely achieved, with a record of 64 percent performance.
On expenditure, the minister said that out of the N7.44 trillion for the year under review, N5.58 was supposed to have been spent at the end of the third quarter but N4.87 (87%) was actually spent within the period.
Capital spending was not as impressive as N720 billion was budgeted to be spent at the end of third quarter out of N2.7 trillion, but only N320 billion had been spent on capital projects.