After several months of controversy, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday finally signed into law the 2016 Budget.
The budget assented to was N200 million short of the N6.08 trillion Buhari presented to the National Assembly.
The president signed the budget in the presence of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
Buhari said it gave him great pleasure to sign the first full-year budget of this administration into law.
He said he would be speaking in more details about the Budget, its implementation and the over-all national economic and social policies of the government in his address on May 29th.
The president thanked the leadership of the National Assembly, in particular, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and indeed all members of the National Assembly for their cooperation in making it a reality.
“As I said in my New Year message, living in the State House does not in any way alienate me from your daily struggles. I read the newspapers and listen to the TV and radio news. I hear your cries. I share your pains.
“The Budget is intended to signpost a renewal of his government’s commitment to restoring the budget as a serious article of faith with the Nigerian people. This administration is committed to ensuring that henceforth, the annual appropriation bill is presented to the National Assembly in time for the passage of the Act before the beginning of the fiscal year.
“Though the 2016 budget, aptly titled “Budget of Change, the government seeks to fulfill its own side of the social contract. The budget I have signed into law provides for aggregate expenditures of N6.06trn. Further details of the approved budget, as well as our Strategic Implementation Plan for the 2016 budget, will be provided by the Honourable Minister of Budget & National Planning,” Buhari said.
He said: “The signing of the budget today will trigger concerted efforts to reflate the Nigerian economy, a key element of which is an immediate injection of N350 billion into the economy by way of capital projects.
“To illustrate our renewed commitment to infrastructural development, the 2016 budget allocates over N200 billion to road construction as against a paltry N18 billion allocated for same purpose in the 2015 budget.”
He said that despite the current difficulties, his government would work extra hard to achieve his revenue projections.
Buhari said: “Our revenue generating agencies are coming under better management and are being re-oriented. The implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) is expected to contribute significantly to improving transparency over government revenues.
“We are experiencing probably the toughest economic times in the history of our nation. I want to commend the sacrifice, resilience and toughness of all Nigerians young and old who have despite the hardships continued to have hope and confidence of a great future for Nigerians.
“But permit me to say that this government is also like none other. We are absolutely committed to changing the structure of the Nigerian economy once and for all.
“We are working night and day to diversify the economy such that we never again have to rely on one commodity to survive as a country. So that we can produce the food we eat, make our own textiles, produce most of things we use. We intend to create the environment for our young people to be able to innovate and create jobs through technology.
“I cannot promise you that this will be an easy journey but in the interest of so much and so many we must tread this difficult path. But I can assure you this government you have freely elected will work with honesty and dedication day and night to ensure that our country prospers and that the prosperity benefits all Nigerians. “
Saraki also spoke with journalists after the budget was signed. He said: “First congratulations to all of us, to the government of Nigeria and the legislative arm. As I said in my remarks, the passing of the appropriation bill is the most difficult all over the world.
“Even America that we copy, sometimes the government is shut down. We didn’t see that in our case. It is a first time; it is a new government; these sort of challenges are rare. But I’m happy we are all here to see that we have passed the budget and the president has signed it and what we await now is implementation.
“I want to assure Nigerians that from the comment from the mouth of the president, our commitment is to see that the budget is implemented. It is not just the assent. It is now the implementation; that is when Nigerians will begin to see the benefits.
“As I said, let’s focus on the good part and pay less on the controversy that is behind us now and I want to assure Nigerians that the benefit expected from this budget is implemented.”
“Let us focus on what that document is and that is, the benefits to Nigerians that we will begin to see in the implementation. And that is what we will do in our oversight function.”
After the budget was signed, Udoma Udo-Udoma said: “The budget size that the legislature came out with was just slightly lower figure than what the executive submitted; so it was N6.06 trillion, just slightly lower.
“The lawmakers adopted the same revenue assumptions, $38 dollars crude oil price and the size of the budget is also roughly the same; the size of the deficit is about the same.
“We will also be explaining how we intend to implement the budget; a bit of it had been approved by the Federal Executive Council two days ago.”
To ensure that the budget process is not delayed next year, Udoma said his ministry had two weeks ago presented a memo to the Federal Executive Council and got approval for a timetable for the budget.
He said: “As we are finishing with this budget, we are starting on 2017. Our intention is that the budget should reach the National Assembly early in October to give them enough time to pass the budget before the end of the year.”
Asked if there was still possibility of a hundred per cent implementation of the budget in view of the fact that it was signed in May, Udoma said: “Our target will always be one hundred percent implementation. But we know that because we started late, we may not achieve it but that is our aim. We will start off with that aim because the budget is a law; so, we will try and implement it as faithfully as we can. However the reality is that we may not, because we started late.”
The president in December last year laid the 2016 appropriation bill before a joint session of the National Assembly. But the lawmakers alleged that the appropriation bill was riddled with errors, omissions and padding, which according to them wasn’t tidy enough to be passed.
It was followed by the drama of “missing budget.”
The president later withdrew it, and apologised for the padding. An amended copy was then re-presented to the legislators.
Another controversy followed the new version as it was discovered that the Calabar-Lagos railway project was allegedly excluded by the legislators. They were also accused of “padding” by the Executive.