This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: National Assembly Yet to Transmit 2014 Budget to Executive

Almost two weeks after the National Assembly passed the 2014 budget, the document is yet to be transmitted to the executive, THISDAY can authoritatively report.

Enquiries by THISDAY at the weekend revealed that the document only arrived on April 16 at the Office of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, who is expected to transmit it to the presidency.

The 2014 Appropriation Bill was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives on April 9 and 10 respectively.

THISDAY learnt that after its passage by the Senate on April 9, a number of issues still needed to be tidied up at the committee level before it could be certified for transmission.

A senior officer of the National Assembly told THISDAY in confidence at the weekend that the passage of the budget by the legislature does not automatically translate to its transmission to the presidency.

According to him, after the passage, some work still needed to be done, including harmonising the votes and proceedings of the day it was passed before the document was sent to the Senate president for his signature.

He explained further that it was after the Senate president had signed the document that it was sent to the clerk of the Senate who put finishing touches to it before sending it to the Clerk of the National Assembly for onward transmission to the executive. THISDAY was reliably informed that the Senate president eventually appended his signature to the budget and subsequently forwarded it to the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.

The Clerk of the Senate, it was further learnt, duly concluded his assignment on the budget and accordingly transmitted it to his boss, Maikasuwa, on April 16.

THISDAY also learnt that besides the clerk of the National Assembly, the legal services department is another unit empowered to transmit the budget to the executive after thoroughly vetting it to ensure that it has complied with all legal procedures.

However, attempts to speak with Maikasuwa proved abortive as sources close to him told THISDAY that it is not in his characteristic manner to speak with the press.

The source, who pleaded not to be named, confirmed that the clerk was yet to transmit the budget to the executive.

Nevertheless, there are concerns that the budget that is expected to cover the 2014 fiscal year is yet to be transmitted or signed into law, let alone its implementation well into the second quarter of the year.

The view is that the 2014 budget, like others before it, is jinxed since its implementation would commence several months into the fiscal year.

The delay in the passage of the 2014 budget is a throwback to what transpired with last year's budget, despite its prompt passage by the legislature ahead of 2013 on December 20, 2012.

Indications that Nigeria could face similar challenges with the passage and implementation of the 2014 budget first emerged on November 12 last year, when Jonathan cancelled the scheduled presentation of the budget, citing failure of both arms of government to reach a consensus on the oil benchmark.

Whereas the executive had proposed a $74 per barrel oil benchmark in the 2014 - 2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Policy document, the Joint Senate Committee on Appropriation and Finance later agreed with the executive to peg the oil benchmark at $76.5 per barrel, which was adopted by the Senate.

However, the House rejected it, insisting on the retention of $79 per barrel benchmark approved in the 2013 budget. This disagreement dragged on till December 17, 2013, when it was finally resolved to peg the benchmark at $77.5 per barrel, thus culminating in the laying of the budget by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on December 19, 2013.

The budget provides N2.4 trillion for recurrent expenditure and N1.1 trillion for capital spending in 2014, as well as an estimated production of 2.3 million barrels of crude oil per day.

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