Senate passes 2015 budget without provision for subsidy

Nigeria SenateThe Senate on Tuesday passed N4.493tn budget for the 2015 fiscal year, about five months after it was presented by the Minister of Finance/Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The national budget, which was earlier passed by the House of Representatives last week, was N51bn higher than the N4.425tn submitted to both chambers of the National Assembly by the Federal Government.

The Senate approval of the budget on Tuesday, however, confirmed the non-inclusion of fuel subsidy provision in the document but N21bn was budgeted for the funding of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme.

The Senate, in passing the budget, slightly reduced the N2.607, 601, 000, 300 proposed by the executive to N2.607, 132,491,708 as recurrent expenditure and simultaneously scaled down the capital expenditure from N642, 848,999,699 estimated in the proposal to N556, 995,465,449.

The Chairman, Joint Senate Committee on Appropriation and Finance, Mohammed Maccido, explained that the details of the figure approved by the Senate in the document were not different from the version passed by the House of Representatives last week.

He confirmed that the executive did not make provision for fuel subsidy in the 2015 budget and that the National Assembly left it the way it was presented.

He said, “There was no provision in the budget for subsidy but I believe there should be provision for it especially since there was already a disagreement between the oil marketers and the Federal Government over subsidy payment.”

He added that the budget would be driven by $53 oil benchmark, an exchange rate of N190 to one US dollar; N2.2782m per barrel crude oil production per day; and deficit gross domestic product of -1.12 per cent.

Reacting to the development, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the incoming government was bound to review the 2015 fiscal budget because of various flaws.

He said, “The constitutional provision is that we should have even passed the budget before now but due to the exigencies of this period, we have just passed it and we have done our constitutional duty very well.

“I believe that the incoming administration will very swiftly bring a request for a supplementary budget which will try to balance between the capital allocation, that will be very much required in Nigeria, and the recurrent.

“The one we have passed is typical of the Peoples Democratic Party’s submission to the National Assembly. In fact, the budget we have just passed is five to one against the capital allocation when we just have about N500bn against the N2.6tn that is going to recurrent.

“So, we are going to do a review definitely because the incoming administration will have to bring something of that nature for a supplementary request.”

Lawan said the country would have funds to finance the budget because oil prices would continue to improve, corruption would be tackled, and leakages would be blocked.

Also, Senator Olubumni Adetunbi said the incoming government would probably make changes “in form of supplementary budget in line with the policy of cutting the cost of governance because the budget is 20 per cent for capital while the rest is recurrent.”

Senator Ganiyu Solomon said implementation of the budget would pose a problem to the incoming administration.

A critical study of the budget also put fiscal deficit at N1.07tn, N953.6bn for debt service, N375.6bn as statutory transfers and while education takes the lion share of the budget with N392.3bn followed by N338.7bn for the military while N303.8bn was budgeted for police commands and formations

In the same vein, N237bn was voted for the health sector, N153bn for the Ministry of Interior while the Ministry of Works had a meager sum of N25.1bn.

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