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N143bn budget hike for federal roads, Amnesty, N’Assembly, others

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John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

Some key federal road projects are to benefit from the over N143bn added to the 2017 budget size by the National Assembly, Nigeria News learnt on Wednesday.

Also to benefit from the increase is the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta.

The National Assembly itself, among other sub-heads in the budget, will benefit from the increase.

The budget, which now has a new size of N7.441tn, will possibly be passed by the National Assembly on Thursday (today).

The original proposal by President Muhammadu Buhari was N7.298tn.

Findings by Nigeria News showed that while the original proposal for the Amnesty Programme by Buhari was N65bn, the new figure would be N75bn, as a result of N10bn said to have been added to it by the National Assembly.

One official explained the reason, “The Amnesty Programme got additional funding in the region of N10bn.

“This is to ensure steady funding of the programme and maintain the current relative peace in the Niger Delta.

“Also, there are some federal roads we consider to be very important.

“They cut across the various zones of the country. We added money there to pay contractors who have already generated certificates.”

The official added, “There are other additions like the National Assembly too, which will get additional N10bn.

“For so many years, the budget of the legislature remained the same. It was on N150bn for many years up to 2014.

“It went down first to N120bn and later N115bn, while the operations of the National Assembly and its organs have continued to multiply over the same period.

“It was considered necessary to raise the figure a bit in view of the fluctuations in the value of the naira.”

The difference of N143bn in the budget size came to light on Tuesday when the House Committee on Appropriation submitted its report to the House in Abuja.

The report was laid by the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Mustapha Bala-Dawaki, at the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

The highlights of the report show that N434.412bn will go to statutory transfers, while another N1.841tn is set aside for debt servicing.

The sum of N177.460bn was recommended for “sinking fund for maturing bonds.”

The recurrent expenditure captured in the new report is N2.990tn.

In Buhari’s initial proposal, recurrent expenditure was N2.98tn.

The capital component in the new report is N2.174tn as against the N2.24tn presented by Buhari.

Meanwhile, Dogara and his colleagues went into a closed-door meeting on Wednesday to discuss the budget.

The session, which lasted for about 45 minutes, reportedly focussed on the need for lawmakers to cooperate with the executive arm of government by passing the budget.

“A lot meetings were held between Mr. President; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Dogara and other top officials of government preceding the budget.

“It is expected that there will be no more friction between the two sides,” one source told Nigeria News.

When contacted for comments, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, simply said the meeting reviewed the budget and other legislative activities.

“We are passing the budget tomorrow (Thursday); so, it was just a normal meeting to share ideas on the budget,” he stated.

This year’s budget has suffered delays right from last year when the President presented the estimates in December.

Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government later compounded the problem when they started appearing before National Assembly committees for budget defence without the details.

At some point, the heads of several agencies were turned away by lawmakers for failing to supply the details of their proposals.

As of March, some agencies were still defending their budget, while the Nigeria Customs Service only concluded its defence on Wednesday, last week.

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, declined to explain the reasons why the budget of the National Assembly was jacked up in the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

He said Nigerians would get the details when the bill was passed on Thursday (today).

Speaking with Nigeria News on Wednesday, Sabi-Abdullahi stated, “As far as I’m concerned, until tomorrow when the budget is discussed, I’m not in the position to comment on it. I don’t know what it is until tomorrow. I can’t comment on what I don’t know.”

When the Senate spokesman was reminded that he should have the answer as a member of the Committee on Appropriation, he said, “I am somebody who believes so much in protocol and due process. Tomorrow, when the budget is open to discussion, everything will be there.”

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