National Assembly raises 2018 budget to N9.1tr

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… As Magu says EFCC has recovered over N500 billion***

More than six months after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2018 expenditure profile for lawmakers’ consideration and passage, the bill was laid at the Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday.

The document was presented to a joint sitting by the President on November7, last year with a plea that the lawmakers should expedite action so that the country could return to the traditional January to December budget cycle.

On presentation yesterday, the estimate was jacked up by N508 billion to take it to N9,120, 334,988,225 from the N8.6 trillion presented by the President.

Following the laying of the report of the Appropriations Committee of the House by its Chairman Mustapha Dawaki yesterday, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun, who presided over plenary, said the report would be considered between today and tomorrow and passed.

“Members are advised to pick up copies of the budget report from 8am tomorrow (today), then we converge in the afternoon to consider it and pass it on Thursday,” he said.

The document was also laid at the Senate by Appropriations Committee Chairman Danjuma Goje.

Senate President Bukola Saraki did not make any remarks on when the report would be adopted.

According to the document, N530,421,368,624 was proposed for statutory transfer; N2,869,600,351,825  for development fund for capital expenditure; N3,516,477,902,077  for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure; N2,203,835,365,699 is for debt service; and N199b  for sinking fund for maturing loans.

The assumptions  and  projections were based on a benchmark crude oil price of $45 per barrel; oil production estimate  of 2.3 million barrels per day; exchange rate  of N305 for 2018; Real GDP growth of 3.5 per cent; and inflation rate of 12.4 percent.

The  proposed aggregate expenditure of N 8.612 trillion, which was 16 per cent above 2017 budget estimate, will comprise  Recurrent Costs of N3.494 trillion; Debt Service of N2.014 trillion; Statutory Transfers of about N456b; Sinking Fund of N220b to retire maturing bond to local contractors; and  Capital Expenditure of N2.428 trillion, excluding the capital component of statutory transfers.

On the Recurrent expenditure, a substantial part is for the payment of salaries and overheads in key ministries that provide critical public services.

In that category, N510.87b was proposed for Interior; N435.01b for Education; N422.43b for Defence; and N269.34b for Health.

Key Capital spending allocations in the 2018 Budget as presented by the President  include: N555.88b ( Power, Works and Housing); N263.10b  (Transportation); N150b (Special Intervention Programmes); N145b (Defence); N118.98b (Agriculture and Rural Development); N95.11b  (Water Resources); N82.92b (Industry, Trade and Investment); N63.26b (Interior); N61.73b (Education); N109.06b  (Universal Basic Education Commission); N71.11b (Health); N40.30b (Federal Capital Territory); N100b  (Zonal Intervention Projects); N45b (North East Intervention Fund); N53.89b (Niger Delta Ministry); and N71.20b (Niger Delta Development Commission).

In addition, N9.8b was proposed for the Mambilla hydro power project, including N8.5b as counterpart funding, N12b counterpart funding earmarked for transmission lines and substations as well as  N35.41b for the National Housing Programme.

As part of key projects and programmes to be implemented in 2018, the President proposed N10b for the 2nd Niger Bridge; N300b was proposed for the construction and rehabilitation of strategic roads.

For regional spending priorities for peace, security and development, N65b was proposed for the Presidential Amnesty Programme. It is retained in the budget.

The Capital provision for the Ministry of Niger Delta was  increased to N53.89b from the N34.20b provided in 2017. The completion of the East-West Road had a provision of about N17.32b.

In the meantime, for Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, it was time yesterday to give account of his stewardship.

Speaking before an audience of dignitaries, including President Muhammadu Buhari and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland, Magu said the EFCC had recovered over N500billion from looters between November 2005 when he took office and now. Besides, 486 convictions have been secured.

The President twice presented Magu’s name for confirmation. He was rejected by the Senate but the Presidency said he remained the best man for the job.

Magu spoke in Abuja during the inauguration of the N24-billion new headquarters of the anti-graft agency.

He said: “In 2018 alone, we have secured 89 convictions. Thus so far, we have secured 486 convictions from November 2015 till date.  We have recovered funds in different currencies and, so far, we have recovered more than N500 billion.

“The recoveries meant for the Federal Government are duly remitted to its account while recoveries for individuals and private institutions are equally paid to them in accordance with the law.

“We are also making strides as it relates to the prosecution of high-profile cases. For instance, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria was convicted in a case prosecuted by the EFCC.

“I, therefore, again, restate the commitment of the Commission to the fight against corruption.

“We do not go after innocent citizens, we go after those who have stolen and arrogated same to themselves, like President Buhari has said.”

Magu said the Federal Government had recovered and was still recovering trillions of naira stolen in the past few years by “people without conscience”.

President Buhari said his administration never engaged in witch-hunt in its anti-corruption war.

He urged Nigerians to change their ways of handling public trust and pleaded with the Judiciary to continue to collaborate with the Executive to bring corrupt people to book.

He also told the audience that he was ousted from office as a military leader in a palace coup in August 1985 for fighting corruption.

President Buhari, who ruled between January 1, 1984 and August 27,1985 as Head of State, was overthrown in a coup led by then Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and subsequently detained. Gen. Babangida replaced him and ruled the country till he stepped aside on August 27, 1993.

He said although the corrupt would always fight back, he would not be intimidated, adding that the Federal Government was determined to make a success of it.

“War of corruption is not an easy one to fight, because it affects so many different branches of our lives, so much that some people do not even consider breaking trust is anymore a crime. It has become the norm. That is why we must fight this attitude and encourage Nigerians to change their attitudes and perspectives,” Buhari said.

He went on: “The goal of this Administration is to ensure the protection of public trust, and the anti-corruption war is at its centre. We never intended, and we are not engaged in witch-hunt, but we are determined within the laws to call people to account.

“It is for this reason that we appeal to Nigerians to support regulatory agencies, like Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, because fighting corruption is everyone’s concern. I call on the Judiciary and the National Assembly to join hands in this national effort.

“  I am glad to note that quite a number of nations are signifying interest to help us tighten their laws and enter into agreements with Nigeria to repatriate not only stolen funds but to make the culprits face due process of law.

“We are committed to working with our foreign friends to stop the inflow of stolen funds from Nigeria into their countries and recovering what is there already.  These assets, when repatriated will be put to building our infrastructure.”

“My first attempt to fight corruption, corruption fought back successfully. I was removed from office and detained for three years,” the president said.

Buhari said with the anti-graft war by his administration, everyone now knows that corrupt officials will be held to account no matter how long it takes.

The Nation