OBIORA IFOH, SUNDAY ODEH, ADEKUNLE ADESUJI and JONAS EZIEKE, Abuja
Indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government may have become conscious of the nation’s housing deficit as well as the deplorable state of federal roads across the country came on Tuesday when President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the 2020 national budget which allocated the highest expenditure vote of N262 billion to Works and Housing.
President Buhari had while laying the 2020 budget of N10.33 trillion before the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja Tuesday, said that capital expenditure would l attract N2.14 trillion while recurrent expenditure will gulp N4.88 trillion. Debt servicing is to cost the nation N2.45 trillion while statutory transfers will account for N556.7 billion.
The presentation of the 2020 budget came on the heels of lamentation by the lawmakers who complained that implementation of 2019 Capital Project is in Jeopardy over the non releases of Capital component of the budget.
Buhari had signed N8.83 trillion budget for 2019 into law on May 27, N2.03 trillion was made available for capital budget in the country.
But, only N294.63billion was released for the implementation of federal capital projects in the country.
A credible source in the Senate, however, told our correspondent that the lawmakers were unable to go for oversight function for the 2019 budget because there was no capital releases for 2019 budget.
He added there was nothing for the lawmakers to oversight in the 2019 budget because there was no releases for the Ministry of Finance to fund the Capital budget in 2019 less than two months to the end of 2019 budget.
However, President Buhari while speaking at the budget presentation said that he directed Ministry of Finance to release N600 billion for the implementation of capital projects for the year 2019.
According to him, as at 30th September 2019, a total of about N294.63 billion had been released for capital projects. I have directed the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to release an additional N600 billion of the 2019 capital budget by the end of the year.
Speaking on the proposal to increase VAT from 5% to 7.5 percent, Buhari said, “Finance Bill proposes an increase of the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent. As such, the 2020 Appropriation Bill is based on this new VAT rate. The additional revenues will be used to fund health, education and infrastructure programmes. As the States and Local Governments are allocated 85% of all VAT revenues, we expect to see greater quality and
efficiency in their spending in these areas as well.
“The VAT Act already exempts pharmaceuticals, educational items, and basic commodities, which exemptions we are expanding under the Finance Bill, 2019. Specifically, Section 46 of the Finance Bill, 2019 expands the exempt items to include the following: Brown and white bread; Cereals including maize, rice, wheat, millet, barley and sorghum; Fish of all kinds; Flour and starch meals; Fruits, nuts, pulses and vegetables of various kinds; Roots such as yam, cocoyam, sweet and Irish potatoes; Meat and poultry products including eggs; Milk; Salt and herbs of various kinds; and Natural water and table water.
“Additionally, our proposals also raise the threshold for VAT registration to N25 million in turnover per annum, such that the revenue authorities can focus their compliance efforts on larger businesses thereby bringing relief for our Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses.
” It is absolutely essential to intensify our revenue generation efforts. That said, this Administration remains committed to ensuring that the inconvenience associated with any fiscal policy adjustments, is moderated, such that the poor and the vulnerable, who are most at risk, do not bear the brunt of these reforms.
Buhari in presentation proposal said, “an aggregate expenditure of N10.33 trillion is proposed for the Federal Government in 2020. The expenditure estimate includes statutory transfers of N556.7 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N4.88 trillion and N2.14 trillion of capital expenditure (excluding the capital component of statutory transfers). Debt service is estimated at N2.45 trillion, and provision for Sinking Fund to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors is N296 billion.”
On Statutory transfer, N125 billion for the National Assembly; N110 billion for the Judiciary; N37.83 billion for the North East Development Commission (NEDC); N44.5 billion for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF); N111.79 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); and N80.88 billion for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which is now supervised by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
He said,”We have increased the budgetary allocation to the National Human Rights Commission from N1.5 billion to N2.5 billion. This 67 percent increase in funding is done to enable the Commission to perform its functions more effectively.”
Speaking also on non-debt recurrent expenditure, Buhari said, “The non-debt recurrent expenditure includes N3.6 trillion for personnel and pension costs, an increase of N620.28 billion over 2019.
“This increase reflects the new minimum wage as well as our proposals to improve remuneration and welfare of our Police and Armed Forces. You will all agree that Good Governance, Inclusive Growth and Collective Prosperity can only be sustained in an environment of peace and security.
“Our fiscal reforms shall introduce new performance management frameworks to regulate the cost to revenue ratios for Government Owned Enterprises, which shall come under significant scrutiny. We will reward exceptional revenue and cost management performance, while severe consequences will attend failures to achieve agreed revenue targets.
“We shall also sustain our efforts in managing personnel costs. Accordingly, I have directed the stoppage of the salary of any Federal Government staff that is not captured on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform by the end of October 2019. All agencies must obtain the necessary approvals before embarking on any fresh recruitment and any contraventions of these directives shall attract severe sanctions.
“Overhead costs are projected at N426.6 billion in 2020. Additional provisions were made only for the newly created Ministries. I am confident that the benefits of these new Ministries as it relates to efficient and effective service delivery to our citizens significantly outweigh their budgeted costs.
“That said, the respective Heads of MDAs must ensure strict adherence to government regulations regarding expenditure control measures. The proliferation of Zonal, State and Liaison Offices by Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (‘MDAs’), with attendant avoidable increase in public expenditure, will no longer be tolerated.”
In the budget propsal, Works and Housing: N262 billion; Power: N127 billion; Transportation: N123 billion; Universal Basic Education Commission: N112 billion; Defence: N100 billion; Zonal Intervention Projects: N100 billion; Agriculture and Rural Development: N83 billion; Water Resources: N82 billion; Niger Delta Development Commission: N81 billion; Education: N48 billion; Health: N46 billion; Industry, Trade and Investment: N40 billion, North East Development Commission: N38 billion;Interior: N35 billion; Social Investment Programmes: N30 billion; Federal Capital Territory: N28 billion; and Niger Delta Affairs Ministry: N24 billion.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Femi Gbajabimila, has said that the N10.3 trillion 2020 budget of the Federal Government is only a statement of intent that can only find expression by implementation.
The Speaker who said that the National Assembly is working to return the annual budget cycle to the January-December cycle added that our collective aspirations can only be achieved through appropriate implementation and oversight of budgets of government by the legislature.
The Speaker who was addressing a joint session of the National Assembly after the budget presentation added that Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs must ensure adequate implementation of their annual budgets and assured that integrity and accountablity is the legislature’s watchword.
Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has challenged President Buhari to make public the budgetary allocation to the presidency for the fiscal year even as it laments that the N10.7 trillion 2020 budget proposal will further impoverish Nigerians and mortgage the future of the nation.
The party urges the legislature to redirect the fiscal proposal to serve the interest of majority of Nigerians.
The party in a statement by National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan noted that the core of the budget remains hazy, showing streaks of padding, fraudulent duplications, replete with false performance indices, deceptive projections and inexplicable expenditure assertions which create openings for continued looting of our national patrimony by leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and persons close to the Presidency.
“The PDP insists that it is inexcusable that despite the huge natural resources at President Buhari’s reach, he articulated a N10.7 trillion budget that is completely lacking in concrete wealth creation strategy but relies on further squeezing of Nigerians through excruciating taxes, levies and agonizing tolls.
“The party described as unacceptable that the budget is skewed to serve the interest of the opulent, as projects that have direct bearing on the wellbeing of the masses were not substantially accommodated in the overall expenditure profile.
“The PDP says such cannot happen under the Atiku Abubakar economic recovery blueprint for which Nigerians voted massively the PDP in the 2019 Presidential election.
“The party also criticized the Buhari administration for not being transparent in the mammoth allocations for alleged vague projects, particularly the ministries of works and housing as well as transportation, where allegations of diversion of public funds were endemic in the last budget.
“Standing with millions of Nigerian youths and women, our party rejects the paltry budgets of N48 billion for education and N46 billion for health and urges the National Assembly to review the allocations in the interest of Nigerians.
“Furthermore, the PDP notes, as unacceptable that President Buhari, in his budget speech, could not give account of his handling of the 2019 budget and had to resort to lame excuses and unsupported figures, particularly on the various unimplemented subheads in critical sectors of the economy.
“Moreover, Mr. President failed to explain why his administration has remained hugely corrupt and how his Presidency depleted our foreign reserves to an all time low $41,852 billion, accumulated huge foreign and domestic debts and kept the naira at its knees at about N360 to $1USD under his watch.
“The party also challenged the Presidency to make public the details of the Presidency allocation for Nigerians to see the billion being spent to finance the opulent lifestyle of the Buhari Presidency, despite Mr. President’s claims of prudence and sacrifice.”
Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) said with the budget as presented the days of the nation’s suffering are not any way close to an end.
Spokesperson of the Coalition, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere in a statement said the president has by today’s budget presentation shown that he has no formula to save the nation’s economy from the impending final ruins that his mismanagement has caused.
“Opposition parties see this fiscal document as empty document that is not worth the paper on which it was written. It is full of rhetoric; Buhari’s appropriation bill can best be described as a heavy travel bag that is empty in substance or value.
“The CUPP notes that this document is a final weapon to consolidate Buhari’s next level of economic ruins, poverty, looting and visionlessness. It is a come and chop document meant to further impoverish many and prosper the privileged few.
“The Opposition rejects the inclusion of the illegal proposed increment in VAT as part of the 2020 budget expected source of funding. This has shown that the budget is built in the sky with no serious source of funding except taxing the people to death.
“The opposition coalition has therefore resolved to head to court this week to stop the planned insensitive move to tax the suffering citizens of Nigeria to death with the proposed increment in VAT from 5% to over 7%. The president should not force the suffering citizens to bear the consequences of his leadership failures.”
However, the ruling APC said it welcomed the commitment of both the executive and legislative arms to ensure budget passage is returned to January-December cycle.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Isa Oniru in a statement said: “To put this into effect, our party notes the early presentation by the President, leaving the lawmakers near three months to consider and pass the budget.
“The Party, therefore, congratulates the President and all APC members on the early presentation of the proposed 2020 Budget of a record N10.33 trillion naira which surpasses the N8.916 trillion budgeted for 2019.
“The proposed 2020 budget is targeted at consolidating on the gains the current administration has made in revamping our power, rail and road infrastructure; diversification and retooling the economy; social intervention programmes targeted at the poor; fight against emerging crimes, insurgency and rehabilitation, rebuilding of the North East particularly through the newly-established North East Development Commission, among other critical interventions.
“According to the President in his budget speech, tagged “Budget of sustaining growth and job creation”, there is a renewed government’s commitment to plugging revenue leakage with the continued strict implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“We congratulate the leaders of the two chambers of the 9th National Assembly, Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for creating a convivial environment for the budget presentation exercise, a welcomed departure from the usual tensed and adversarial atmosphere of the previous four years.
“The Party is confident that the patriotic disposition of the leaders and members of the 9th National Assembly would ensure a cordial relationship with the executive arm, which would surely translate to good governance and proper implementation of the administration’s Next Level plans for Nigerians.”
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