Both Chambers of the National Assembly Wednesday increased the size of the 2023 Appropriation Bill from N20.51trillion presented to them by President Muhammadu Buhari October 7, 2022, to N21.82 trillion with a deficit of N10.782 trillion.
The N1.3 trillion increase in the budget size as separately explained by chairmen of the appropriation committees at both chambers, arose from additional funding earmarked for the National Population Commission (NPC) ahead of the planned 2023 Census, N173 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2023 general elections, the Nigerian Army, Navy, Nigeria Police Force, Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Aviation and Science & Technology.
The National Assembly also increased the oil price benchmark proposed for the budget from $70 per barrel to $75 per barrel.
They however retained other parameters as earlier proposed by President Buhari like 1.69 million barrel oil production per day, N435.57 to a US dollar, 3.75% GDP growth rate and 17.16% inflation rate.
Making presentation of the report in the Senate, the chairman of the appropriations committee, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North) said, out of the N21.827 trillion, N967.486 billion was for statutory transfer, N8.329 trillion for non-debt recurrent cost, N5.972 trillion for capital expenditure and N6.557 trillion for Debt servicing.
He further said under the N967. 48 billion statutory transfers, the National Assembly Office has N30.492 billion, Senate N33.267 billion, House of Representatives, N51.994 billion, National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) N10.555 billion, Legislative Aides N16.520 billion, General Services N11.307 billion, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) N7.411billion.
Others are N30.173 billion for severance/inauguration of outgoing and incoming 9th and 10th Assembly lawmakers, N10billion for construction of NASC building and N2.5 billion for the completion of NILDS Headquarters among others.
Outside the National Assembly, N165billion was earmarked for National Judicial Council (NJC), N119.9 billion for Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and N103 billion for Universal Basic Education.
Of the N5.972 trillion proposed capital expenditure, the Ministry of Works and Housing has the lion vote of N398.275 billion, followed by Ministry of Defence with N285.045 billion, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development getting N248.358 billion and Ministry of Education with N153.735 billion.
Others are Ministry of Health(N134.909 billion) , Federal Ministry of Science and Technology(N132.572 billion), Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning(N166. 747billion) , Office of the National Security Adviser (N70.331billion), Presidency (N20.115 billion), Ministry of Interior (N45.622 billion) and Federal Ministry of Water Resources getting N83.256 billion among other allocations.
After the passage of the budget, Senate President Ahmad Lawan urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to it before the year runs out in sustaining the January to December budget cycle implementation of the current National Assembly.
2022 budget implementation extended
Also, in line with President Buhari’s request, the National Assembly Wednesday extended the implementation period for the N18.12 trillion 2022 budget to March 31, 2023.
The budget, in line with provisions of clause 12 of the Appropriation Act and section 318 of the 1999 constitution which stipulate 12 calendar months for implementation of budget in any fiscal year, was supposed to have ended December 31, 2022, having started January 1, 2022.
But in a letter read at plenary Wednesday, President Buhari sought for amendment on the Act for extension of the implementation period.
The president’s letter as read by Senate President Ahmad Lawan, said: “I write to request your consideration for an amendment into the 2022 Acts expression clause 12, as passed and assented to.
“The 2022 Appropriation Acts states, in line with the provisions of section 318 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, this Bill expire after 12 months starting from January, 1 to the December, 31, 2022, one assented to.
“The proposed 2022 appropriation supplementary budget submitted to National Assembly for consideration as well as recent 2022 capital releases to MDAs are likely to be utilized before December, 31st, 2022 due to the late release of the funds which will lapse if the capital implementation is not extended beyond December, 2022.
“In the light of the above, the National Assembly is requested to amend the 2022 Acts expression clause to reflect March 31, 2023 for the capital components only.”
And accordingly, the Senate gave the request expeditious consideration and passage by making it pass the required legislative processes within 30 minutes after which it was given.
Explaining the Senate’s decision, Senate President Lawan said the extension would provide the required time for implementation of the N819.5billion 2022 supplementary budget raised by the president.
But in a brief debate, Senator Muhammad Ali Ndume (APC Borno South) called for caution in view of the short time available.
“Mr. President, my worry on this extension and supplementary budget is the reality of what we are doing.
“N819.5 billion 2022 supplementary budget targeted for implementation during the extended period should have been merged with the 2023’budget which will also be passed today.
“It is not possible for the N819.5 billion supplementary budget implemented within 90 days from now. Let us not deceive ourselves but if the Senate wants to go ahead, so be it,” he said.
Notwithstanding Ndume’s warning, the Senate went ahead with the passage of extension of implementation period for 2022 budget and approval of the N819.5billion 2022 supplementary budget.
Senate shuts down Buhari on Ways & Means
In a related development, there was uproar in Senate Wednesday over request from President Buhari for restructuring of N22.7 trillion Ways and Means advances collected by the federal government from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) within the last 10 years.
In a letter read on the floor of the Senate Wednesday last week, Buhari sought for restructuring of the N22.7trillion Ways and Means advances collected from CBN within the last ten years in addition to N1trillion to be collected as fresh domestic loan.
Buhari in the letter, said Ways and Means are advances from the CBN to the federal government for emergency funding of delayed receipt of fiscal deficits.
“The ways and means advances by the central bank of Nigeria, to the federal government has been a funding option to the federal government to cater for short term or emergency finance to fund delayed government expected cash receipt of physical deficit.
“The ways and means, balances as at 19th December 2022 is N22.7 trillion. I have approved the securitization of the ways and means balances along the following terms ÷ Amount. N23 .7 trillion, Tenure 40 years, Moratorium on principal repayment, three years, Pricing interest rate 9%.
“Your concurrence and approval is sought to allow for the implementation of same,” the president had requested.
And in line with parliamentary procedure, the Senate gave the request expeditious consideration by passing it for second reading and mandating its committee on Finance to work on it.
But trouble started Wednesday when chairman of the committee, Solomon Adeola (APC Lagos West), was called upon to present report on it.
But rising through constitutional point of order, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers) said Ways and Means expenditures were not known to the Nigeria Constitution.
She was, however, ruled out of order by the Senate President Ahmad Lawan for allowing the report to be presented before kicking against it.
The lawmakers’ angst started when during its presentation by Adeola, voices of dissent started gathering from some background noise of sort.
And in a potent move to kill the report, Senator Thompson Sekibo rose through constitutional orders by citing sections 80, 83, Section1, 13(1) of the 1999 Constitution and section 38 of the CBN Act to kick against the request.
He said: ” Section 80 of the 1999 constitution as amended states that all revenues or other monies raised or received by the Federation, not being revenue and other monies payable under this constitution or any act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a particular purpose shall be paid into and for and from one consolidated revenue fund of the Federation.
“No money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund or where the issue of those monies have been authorized by an appropriation act, supplementary act or an act passed in pursuance of section 81 of the constitution.
“No money shall be withdrawn from any account other than the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation unless the issue of those monies have been authorized by the Act of the National Assembly.
“Section 80 (4) states that no money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund or any other fund of the Federation except by the approval of the National Assembly, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.
“Section 38 of the CBN Act states ” any money collected by federal government as loan or emergency fund in form of Ways and Means Advances , must be refunded before collection of another one.”
“Mr. President, the relevant laws quoted clearly show that the N22.7triillion Ways and Means Advances already spent by federal government without informing the National Assembly was wrong and will be unfair as representatives of Nigerians to approve this request,” he said.
Lawmakers in close session
Spirited attempt by Senate President Lawan to make Sthe lawmakers back down proved abortive as many of them, left their seats and shouting, No! No, a development that forced the lawmakers to hurriedly go into closed session for about one and half hours.
And after the closed session , the Senate as separately announced by both Adeola and Lawan , resolved to step down restructuring of N22.7trillion Ways and Means but approved N819.5billion from the fresh N1trillion being requested for.
The approved N819.5billion is for funding for 2022 supplementary budget.
For the others, a special committee was set up to summon Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele and heads of other relevant agencies for details on expenditure made from the N22.7triillion.
The committee, headed by Senate Leader Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East) is to submit its report January 17, 2023 when Senate resumes plenary from the New Year recess.
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