Finally, the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, has signed the 2017 appropriation bill of N7.44 trillion into law. Osinbajo did so on Monday (June 12, 2017) in the presence of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Speaker Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and a host of other top government officials. He humbly described the event as “an important milestone’’ in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The President is still on medical vacation, which political observers believe added to the delay in the signing. But against all odds and political calculations, Prof. Osinbajo who has done extremely well (even though some people may not agree) has again made history as the first Acting President in the history of Nigeria to sign a budget into law.
Tagged “Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth,’’ the 2017 budget has projected revenue of N5.08 trillion with deficit of N2.36 trillion. A total of N2.98 trillion was earmarked for recurrent non-debt expenditure, while N2.17 trillion was earmarked for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure exclusive of capital expenditure in statutory transfers. A total of N434.41 billion was earmarked for statutory transfers; N1.84 trillion for debt service and N177.46 billion for sinking fund for maturing bonds.
The Acting president said the appropriation act was an important milestone in the administration’s economic recovery and growth plan and thanked the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives and the entire leadership of the National Assembly for completing the work on record time. He said that the process of passing the 2017 appropriation bill in the National Assembly was smoother than that of 2016, as there were no allegations of errors or mistakes.
He also commended the Ministry of Budget and Planning on what he called the “remarkable improvement over a single budget cycle,’’ and praised the collaborative spirit between Ministries, Departments and Agencies and the various committees of the National Assembly and their leadership during the budget defence process. He said he was impressed with the process as there were few reported cases of acrimony or hostile wrangling during the budget defence process.
The Acting President added that reports have it that the sessions were done in a friendly atmosphere, an indication that the nation’s democracy was maturing well. He further said that the final presentation and signing of the budget was delayed due to disagreements between the executive and the national assembly on some changes made in the proposal. According to him, the executive took the view that the changes fundamentally affected some of its priority programmes and would make implementation extremely difficult and in some cases impossible.
He said that the leadership of NASS “adopted a commendably patriotic and statesmanlike approach on engagement in resolving these critical issues.’’ Osinbajo said that the leadership of the national assembly had promised to re-instate budgetary allocations for all the important executive projects. He listed the projects to include the railway standard gauge project, Mambilla power project, the second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway among others. Osinbajo said the reinstatement would be through an application for virement by the executive, which the national assembly had agreed to expeditiously consider.
“It is as a result of that understanding and the outcome of our detailed engagements that we are able to sign the 2017 appropriation bill into law. “I am also pleased to mention that in our discussion with the national assembly we have jointly resolved to return to a predictable January to December fiscal year. “It is a particularly important development because this accords with the financial year of most private sector companies, underscoring the crucial relationship between government and the private sector,’’ Osinbajo concluded.