By Ismaila Chafe
The Presidency has reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s reservation over the distorted 2018 budget by the National Assembly, saying he only signed the document in the spirit of compromise.
According to Buhari’s Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in a statement in Abuja on Friday, the President signed the Bill in spite of the distortions, for the sake of a successful budget exercise.
Adesina was reacting to various explanations by the National Assembly aimed at justifying its distortion of the Budget.
The president had on Wednesday, expressed concern over adjustments made to the 2018 Budget by the National Assembly, saying that the action may affect the execution of meaningful socio-economic projects nationwide.
He made his position known when he signed the 2018 Appropriation Bill at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Adesina, in the statement said: “Sequel to the response of the National Assembly justifying its distortion of the 2018 Budget, the following clarifications have become necessary.
“Throughout the budget consideration process, the executive, through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, was in touch with the National Assembly.
“The executive was approached by the National Assembly which indicated that it intended to increase the benchmark price by five dollars, from 45 to 50 dollars.
“Out of the five dollars increase, the National Assembly informed the Executive that it intended to utilize two dollars (amounting to about N170 billion) for projects selected by themselves.
“They asked the Executive to suggest important projects that could be accommodated with the funds arising from the balance of three dollars.’’
According to the presidential aide, after some consideration, the Executive was of the view that an increase in the benchmark price of crude oil to 50 dollars was not unrealistic.
He, however, revealed that the President decided to accept this in the spirit of compromise required for a successful budget exercise.
“The Executive had, in that spirit, suggested that from the additional funds arising out of the three-dollar increase, 1.25 dollars from the increase should not be appropriated as expenditure, but utilized to reduce the deficit in the budget.
“The Executive therefore restricted itself to submitting, for the consideration of the National Assembly, important items that could be funded from1.75 dollars of the three-dollar increase.
“The NASS eventually raised the benchmark price to 51 dollars, apparently to accommodate the additional allocations to Health and NDDC.”
He explained that the Executive was surprised that the National Assembly cut allocations to important projects in spite of additional N170 billion available to it for Constituency Projects.
Adesina said that this was besides N100 billion already provided for the legislature in the Budget, adding that the lawmakers’ act distorted the Budget, in order to further increase their allocation for Constituency projects.
He stated that the President’s position was clear from paragraph 12k of his speech, where he said, “About 70 new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
“In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote.
“Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly.’’