President Muhammadu Buhari , rather sarcastically, thanked federal lawmakers for passing the 2018 Budget back to him for his signature after seven months! But he had his complaints over cuts and increases the Executive arm did not anticipate.
The President said the National Assembly made cuts of N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects and introduced 6,403 projects of N578 billion Naira.
The cuts, according to him, affect many of the projects that are critical and may be difficult to implement with the reduced allocation. “Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute,” he added.
The President noted that many of the new projects introduced by the National Assembly were added to the budgets of most Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.
He lamented that some of the projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should not be unduly burdened.
The areas he cited are:
*The provisions for some national and regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of 11.5 billion Naira.
*Provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of 7.5 billion Naira.
*The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by 3.9 billion Naira from 4 billion Naira to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
*The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of 7.45 billion Naira.
*The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by 3 billion Naira at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.
*The provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme was cut by 8.7 billion Naira.
*At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of 5 billion Naira was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
*The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of 14.5 billion Naira.
*The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira which will further delay the completion of this critical project.
*The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from 5 billion Naira to 3.4 billion Naira.
*About seventy (70) new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote. Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly.
On Increases by the National Assembly, he cited the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of 73.96 billion Naira. Most of these increases, he said, are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance.
“An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by 14.5 billion Naira, from 125 billion Naira to 139.5 billion Naira without any discussion with the Executive,” he said.
The President, however, said he decided to sign the Budget so as not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of the economy, which has been affected by the delay in passing the budget.
He declared his intention to seek to remedy of the critical grey areas through a supplementary or amendment budget, or both.