Lagos and Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan has assented to the 2014 Appropriation Bill, which he formally handed over to the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Director of Budget Office, Bright Okogwu, on Friday.
The President actually signed the document on Wednesday but delayed the announcement and handing over because of the absence of the Finance Minister.
The presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, explained this sshortly after the brief handover ceremony at the Presidential Villa.
Abati said: "The President actually signed the 2014 Budget two days ago. But you know that the Minister of Finance was not in town. So he needed to hand over to her and the Director of Budget for onward transmission. That was what he did today."
Immediately after handing over the document to the minister, Jonathan left Abuja for Pretoria, South Africa, to confer with other African leaders on ways to combat terrorism on the continent.
The Federal Government gave a breakdown of the 2014 budget showing N10.88 trillion as the aggregate revenue target for the year.
Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the budget breakdown briefing in Abuja, said that of this amount, the Federal Government was expecting N3.73 trillion against the N4.1 trillion in 2013.
She disclosed that N1.119 trillion was earmarked for capital expenditure against N1.5 trillion set aside for the same purpose in 2013. According to her, N4.695 trillion has been budgeted for overall expenditure in the 2014 appropriation bill, while N286.37 billion is for SURE-P, making it a total of N4.964 trillion.
Also, $77.5 billion has been earmarked for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) against $79 billion budgeted for the same purpose in 2013.
Reacting to the question of the Nigerian Military complaining that it could not fight Boko Haram insurgency due to inadequate funding, the minister said that N968,127 billion had been budget for Defence, pointing out that N130.7 billion had been released to the sector since January this year, N88.7 billion of which went to personnel.
She assured that more funds would be given to the military not only to fight insurgents but to maintain a standard as obtained across the globe, especially given that they were humans and should be treated well.
On oil production, Okonjo-Iweala said that 2.388mbpd was targeted for 2014 against 2.53mbpd in 2013, given the realities on ground, adding that the exchange rate was pegged at N160/Dollar as was obtained for last year, while the GDP growth was 6.75 per cent.
On recurrent non-debt spending, she said that 2.455 trillion was earmarked for the year, while N712 billion was for debt servicing with statutory transfers put at N408.69 billion.
She explained that this amount would go to the NDDC, UBEC and Human Rights among others, adding that deficit fiscal balance was two per cent of GDP before the economy was rebased, pointing out that it was now about one per cent of the GDP.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said that despite the fact that the budget was not passed in time, government worked hard to ensure that the economy never suffered, saying that N200 billion was released as first quarter funding, while the next release would be in June.
On funding the deficit, she said the government relied on borrowing to fill the gap, adding the N571 billion had been proposed to be borrowed, down from N577 billion borrowed in 2013.
She also said the N53 billion that was smuggled into the budget by the National Assembly would be sought from elsewhere to make up.
On the late signing of budget by the President, the National Chairman of United Peoples Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the signing of the budget was a mere ceremonial affair as the government had been financing several projects since the beginning of the year without hindrance.
According to him, "Those that think because we are already in the second quarter of 2104 before the budget was signed need to know that the government, according to the constitution, has up to six months to sign the budget formally. However, that does not mean that they are not empowered to spend money from the national treasury as pre-budgeted.
"You can only blame the government if the economy fails to perform up to optimum level because they have the approved fund at their disposal to dispense. The approval by the National Assembly was just to fulfill all righteousness. The most important thing is for government to brace up for the challenges ahead. The late signing of the budget alone will not affect the economy negatively except there are other factors."