As against the reservations expressed by President Mohammadu Buhari during the signing ceremony of 2018 budget, the House of Representatives has come out to tell Nigerians that what was done was in line with the 1999 constitution as amended.
Recall that President Buhari had raised concern over the National Assembly’s injection of strange projects and sundry irregularities into the 2018 budget.
He made the observation at the Presidential Villa, yesterday, as he signed the appropriation bill of N9.12 trillion into law, after seven months of delay.
His words: “Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation. Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and coasted, and will, therefore, be difficult to execute.”
He also said many of the new projects “have been added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, it, however, maintained that the decision to inject additional projects into the budget was in line with the powers conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Specifically, it noted that the inclusion of zonal intervention projects in the budget was in line with the wishes and aspiration of Nigerians.
Namdas also said there was nothing awkward with the N150 billion budgeted for the National Assembly on the basis that it had been underfunded over the years.
“The budget is usually a proposal from the Executive to the National Assembly, which the latter is given the constitutional powers of appropriation to alter, make additions, costs or reduce as it may deem necessary.
“The Legislature is not expected to be a rubber-stamp by simply approving the Executive proposals and returning the budget to Mr President.
Therefore, the additions the President complained of in his speech are justifiable.
“We are on the same page with Mr President in his desire to return our budget cycle to January-December.
By the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, the budget estimates should be with the National Assembly around September of each year.
“In the case of the 2018 budget, the estimates came behind schedule in November 2017, although this attempt was seen as one of the earliest in recent years. Going forward, we urge the Executive to speed up the reporting time to the National Assembly by complying fully with the FRA,” the statement reads.
On new projects in the budget, the House reminded Mr President that they were representatives of the people, adding that even the common man deserves a mention in the budget by including projects that would affect his life positively.
It explained that before 2015, its budget was N150 billion for several years but that it was reduced to N120b in 2015 and further down to N115b in 2016. In 2017, the budget was N125b and N139.5b in 2018.
“This means that the budget of the National Assembly is still far below the N150b in the years before 2015,” it added.