Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: President Jonathan Signs 2014 Budget As Defence Gets 20 Percent

Photo: State House
President Jonathan hands in budget (file photo).

The Federal Government on Friday finally released to the public the 2014 budget approved by the National Assembly and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The budget was signed by the President on Friday.

Presenting the approved figures in Abuja, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said out of a total budget of N4.962 trillion, the allocation to the defence sector took about 20 per cent, totalling N968.127 billion because of the growing insecurity situation in the country.

Out of the total provision for the sector, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said between January and April, government had disbursed about N130.7 billion to relevant authorities, including the army, navy, air force, police, and civil defence.

Of the disbursed figure, about N85.9 billion was to take care of the personnel costs of the agencies, which was handed to the military authorities for direct payment to their personnel.

She said based on the president's contingency last year, some money was also used for the payment of additional N24.8 billion, while another approval by the President of N3.8 billion was still being processed.

Assuring that government has done its best to disburse as and when due monies to agencies under the defence sector as needed for their operations, the minister said there were other requirements that needed extra allocation, including those for joint task force and special operations against terrorism.

"No amount of budgetary provision can be enough for the military," she said. "The military all over the world that engages in war does not always have enough, particularly in this new type of war against terror, which requires equipment to assist them. I don't think the Nigerian military would be different from any other in the world in the same circumstance."

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said government needs to spend expeditiously to ensure the defence sector receives the right support to prosecute their counter-insurgency operations.

On specific policies designed to help create jobs and grow the economy, the minister said the operations of the Nigeria Mortgage Finance Corporation launched early this year by President Goodluck Jonathan would commence in June with adverts inviting the initial 10,000 prospective beneficiaries of the mortgage finance programme.

She identified the scheme as some of the direct benefits that would accrue from the budget, and said government deliberately introduced the policy to support mortgage refinancing schemes to promote greater liquidity in the economy for housing.

"Government has been working since January to put in place all the relevant institutional frameworks and policies that would support and pick up additional mortgage financing in the economy for housing production. By the beginning of June, government would begin to advertise for people who would benefit from the initial 10,000 mortgages for low income earners," she said.

She said other sectors through which the government has introduced policies in the budget to grow the economy and help create jobs include manufacturing, agriculture, automobile, aviation and solid minerals, where there would be lower preferential tariffs on equipment to encourage more participation.

She said the delay in signing the budget by the president has minimal impact as it did not hamper the running of the economy.

This, she said, was because of the provision in the constitution, which allowed government to continue the implementation of the budget up to 50 per cent based on the previous year's budget before the approval of the new budget.

"Implementation of the budget has not impeded the impact of the performance of the economy, as salaries and debt service have been paid as and when due; while N200 billion capital budget has been released for the first quarter, the second tranche is to be released next month," she said.

On the N53 billion padding in the budget by the National Assembly, the minister said it was scattered through the capital and recurrent budget to beef up allocations in certain sectors including the police spending, army and other security agencies.

The Director General, Budget office of the Federation, Bright Okogu, who provided the details of the revised budget, said the approved Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, was based on $77.5 per barrel benchmark price for oil as against N79 per barrel last year.

He said the exchange rate was left at N160 to the dollar as in 2013, with real gross domestic product, GDP, growth rate put at 6.75 per cent.

Mr. Okogu said on the basis of the various assumptions, the aggregate revenue for the three tiers of government before applying the sharing formula stood at N10.88 trillion, with the Federal Government's share at N3.73 trillion, compared to N4.13trillion in 2013.

While total expenditure was N4.695 trillion, recurrent non-debt spending, made up of salaries, overheads, and other transfers was about N2.455 trillion; provision for debt service, N712 billion; statutory transfers to identified entities like the National Assembly, Niger Delta Development Commission, Universal Basic Education, National Human Rights Commission and others, N408.69 billion.

Provision for capital expenditure is N1.119 trillion as against N1.59 trillion in 2013. When the capital component of the MDAs that got the statutory transfers is added, the figure for capital expenditure rises to N1.287 trillion.

Allocation for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, activities is N268.37 billion.

Mr. Okogu said the fiscal deficit ration of about 2 per cent of GDP before the rebasing was reasonable, as it fell below the 3 per cent rate allowable under the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act requiring government to keep the deficit in the annual budget.

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InFocus

Nigerian President Signs 2014 Budget

President Jonathan hands in budget (file photo).

President Goodluck Jonathan has signed the 2014 Budget of over N4 trillion and handed it over for implementation to the Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Read more »