*To pass N9.12trn Appropriation Bill today
By Ignatius Okorocha and Gift Chapi Odekina
Ahead the planned passage of the 2018 budget today, the National Assembly has explained why it increased the Appropriation Bill by N410 billion.
Sources in the Joint Committee on Appropriation in the Assembly told The AUTHORITY on Tuesday in Abuja that although the initial budget benchmark was pegged at $45 per barrel, NASS increased it to $51 because the price of oil in the international market had risen to $70 per barrel.
The sources added that insecurity in the country was also taken into consideration as the allocation for “Operation Lafiya Dole” and related exercises by the military was increased to meet such challenges.
It was also learnt that infrastructure deficit was increased by N70 billion, while the health sector equally had its allocation raised to address the crisis in the sector.
The increased allocations brought the budget to N9.120 billion which the two chambers of the National Assembly have agreed to pass today.
Indication of the possible passage of the budget came yesterday from the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki, when he laid the report on the budget for consideration before the House at the plenary presided by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuff Lasun.
The amount is over N410 billion of the N8.612 trillion presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly in December last year.
A breakdown of the increased budget showed that the sum of N530.421 billion is for statutory transfers, N2.203 trillion for debt service, N199 billion goes to sinking fund for maturing loans, and N3.516 trillion is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, while N2.869 trillion is development fund for capital expenditure.
Yusuff told the lawmakers to get copies of the budget so that the House can commence debate and pass the budget today.
At the Senate, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, laid the report before the Senate in plenary.
The presentation of the report by the committees came six months after President Buhari sent it to NASS. The two chambers had promised to pass the budget on April 24, 2018, but failed to do so.
There were equally assurances that the budget would be passed in the first week of May, but it was not done.
The Senate had on several occasions accused Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of not keeping to appointments with the various standing committees to defend their budgets.
Subsequently, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on April 12, 2018, mandated the Appropriation Committee to tidy up its report on the budget on April 13.
The AUTHORITY gathered from sources close to the Senate Rules and Business Committee that to meet the deadline agreed by the National Assembly leadership recently, the Appropriation Bill which has been harmonized by the House and Senate Joint Conference Committee, would be considered and passed today.
Buhari had on November 7, 2017, presented a budget of N8.6 trillion to the National Assembly for consideration and passage.
The President, who tagged it “Budget of Consolidation”, said that with a benchmark of $45 per barrel, at an exchange rate of N305 to the dollar in 2018, the budget would consolidate on the achievements of previous budgets to aggressively steer the economy on the path of steady growth.