The National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously adopted the 2018-2020 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) projections of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, just as it referred the N8.6 trillion 2018 budget proposal to the Senate and House of Representatives Appropriation Committees for further legislative action.
The Senate had also on Tuesday said that it would pass the N8.612trillion 2018 budget into law on the December 19, after possible submission of report to that effect by its committee on Appropriation.
Against this background, it adjourned plenary session till the said date for the appropriation and other standing committees to have enough time in engaging the various Government Ministries ,Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on budget defence having passed it for second reading .
Speaking on the passage of the Second Reading of the Budget, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki said: “We know that the timetable is very tight. We will be suspending plenary for us to be able to start the defense of this budget. Committee Chairmen and Members should please ensure that we keep to this timetable.
“Let me respond with a general note of warning to all Heads of MDAs to ensure that they strictly respect the letters of invitation and the timetable. This is not time for excuses for Ministers or Heads of parastatals to be traveling and not be able to attend their budget defense.
“We do not have the time. This is a very short timeframe, therefore, I expect all MDAs to be able to respect our invitation and be there on time so that the Committees can wrap up and be able to present their reports by the time we come back on Tuesday, the 19th of December”.
He also disclosed that a public hearing on the budget estimates during defence session may be come up on Monday next week .
“There will be a Public hearing on the Budget. We are looking at Monday, the 11th of December, however, in the next few days, an announcement will be made “, he said .
The Senate had earlier in paving way for passing the budget details for second reading , passed the 2018- 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) by raising the projected oil price benchmark from $45 to $47 Us dollar per barrel .
The $47 per barrel approved by senate as oil price bench mark was a dollar higher than the $46 recommended by its joint cimmittee on Finance, Appropriation , National Planning and Economic Development that worked on the MTEF document
The Senate however as recommended by the joint committee in collaboration with their counterparts in the House of Representatives, approved all other projected parameters for the implementation of the budget .
The parameters are 2.3million barrel oil production per day , N305 to a US dollar exchange rate, 3.5% GDP growth rate .Others are N5.79trillion projected non oil revenue, N1.699trillion for new borrowings etc.
But the upper legislative chamber in ensuring compliance by the executive during implementation of the budget when passed, resolved to insert a new clause into the 2018 Appropriation Act.
The resolution as moved by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah ( APC Kebbi South) and approved by the Senate read; “The Senate should insert in the 2018 Appropriation Act , a clause which makes it mandatory for the executive to revert to the National Assembly for any expenditure that would be at variance with approved benchmarks in the Act.
In a related development, the House also passed and approved the recommendations of its Committee on Finance, Aids, Loans and Financial Services in respect of the 2018-2020 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Specifically, the House retained the 2.3 million barrels per day oil production quota proposed by the executive and a benchmark of $47 per barrel.
According to the House, it took the key decisions “in consideration of the current positive outlook in the global oil market and expectation that OPEC and other allied oil partner countries will sustain oil production cuts deep into 2018.”
The House also retained the propose exchange rate of N305 to the dollar as proposed by the executive but advised that the Central Bank of Nigeria adopt measures to close the gap between the parallel market and the official exchange rate.
While further adopting the projected revenue of N5.279 trillion from non-oil sources, it however, enjoined revenue generating agencies to intensify efforts at collection and measure that would reduce revenue loss.
It added “specifically, pioneer status and tax incentives must be beneficial to the economy.
“That N1.669 trillion new borrowing for 2018 as proposed by the executive be adopted. However, borrowing must be project tied. In borrowing more, government must remain focused and ensure it is used to fund critical projects that will increase productivity and contribute to financing such debt.”
Moreover, the House agreed that a growth rate of 3.5 per cent be maintained, considering that the latest figures indicate a doubling of growth rate of 1.4 per cent in the third quarter of this year.
While the House tasked the National Assembly to amend relevant sections of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and other extant laws, it mandated all House committees to closely monitor and oversight the activities of the various
Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the implementation of projects and programmes of government to ensure effective, widespread and representative targeting of beneficiaries.
In another development, the House yesterday referred the 2018 Appropriation bill to its Committee on Appropriation following the conclusion of the debate on the general principles of the budget by members.
The Daily Times recalls that the House began discussing the general principles of the money bill lass week, with some members expressing concern over the poor implementation of the 2017 budget.
Subsequently, Speaker Yakubu Dogara referred the Appropriation bill to the House Committee on Appropriations.
Meanwhile, the House adjourned plenary till December 19, to enable House committees carry out oversight on the implementation level of the 2017 budget.
Olufemi Samuel and Henry Omunu, Abuja