Abuja — Faced with pressure from the public, which remained unrelenting for years, and in keeping with its promise this year to do so, the National Assembly, on Thursday, finally released a 33-page document detailing the line-by-line expenditure of its budget for 2017.
The National Assembly's budget was increased by N10 billion to N125 billion, from the N115 billion proposed by the executive.
Also, the legislature passed the 2017 Appropriation Bill for the year, with an increment of N143 billion to N7.441 trillion, from the executive's proposal of N7.298, five months after President Muhammadu Buhari submitted the federal government's spending bill.
The document containing the details of the legislature's budget was made available on the twitter handle of the Nigerian Senate @NGRSenate.
Under its budget, N85.8 billion was assigned to total overhead costs, N23.7 billion for personnel costs and N14.9 billion for capital projects.
The sum of N9.6 billion was also proposed for legislative aides of the 469 lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The Management of the National Assembly was allocated N14.9 billion, with N6.7 billion for personnel cost, N6.2 billion for overheads and N2 billion for its capital budget.
The Senate's budget was put at N31.4 billion, of which N1.856 billion was allocated to personnel (salary) cost. This translates to N17 million per annum as the basic salary of each of the senators.
The budget of the Senate also assigned N4.4 billion for capital spending and N25.1 billion for overhead costs, but was silent on the breakdown of the budgetary sub-head for overheads, thus fuelling the suspicion that this is where the senators get paid the quarterly running cost for each of their offices.
The House of Representatives got a total of N49 billion, with N4.9 billion for personnel cost (N13.7 million per member per annum), N39.6 billion for overheads and N4.5 billion for capital projects. Like the Senate's budget, there were no details provided for House's overhead cost.
Also, N2.4 billion was proposed for the National Assembly Service Commission, with N961 million for personnel cost, N1.1 billion for overheads and N310 million for capital, while legislative aides got N9.6 billion, with N8.9 billion for personnel, N535 million for overheads and N150 million as the capital component.
The sums of N119 million and N142.7 million were proposed for the Public Accounts Committees of the Senate and House respectively, while the sum of N12.6 billion was proposed for general services, with N11.7 billion for overheads and N817 million for capital spending.
The National Assembly Legislative Institute got N4.3 billion, with N416.5 million for personnel cost, N1.2 billion for overheads and N2.72 billion as capital. The sum of N391 million was also budgeted for the service wide votes of the legislature.
Justifying the increase in the National Assembly's budget, House spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, said the budget reflected both input during the public hearing on the federal budget and the current economic realities in the country, occasioned by the devaluation of the naira and higher inflation.
He said that the increment was to cater to legislative oversight functions.
Meanwhile, the breakdown of the federal government's budget passed by the lawmakers showed that capital expenditure (exclusive of capital votes under statutory transfers) will gulp N2.177 trillion in 2017, while recurrent spending (non-debt) will take N2.987 trillion.
Statutory transfers to agencies of government that have a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) got N434.4 billion, while N1.841 trillion was allocated to debt service.
A further breakdown of debt service showed that N1.488 trillion was allocated to domestic debt service, while foreign debts got N175.88 billion ($577 million). Also, the sinking fund to retire maturing loans got N177.46 billion.
In the Senate, the senators unanimously voted to adopt the recommendations of the report of its Appropriations Committee, which had already been harmonised with the House Committee on Appropriation to avoid further delay to the budget's passage.
Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, explained the increase of N143 billion in the budget, stating that the crude oil benchmark was increased to $44.5 dollars per barrel while oil production was retained at 2.2 million barrels per day (mpbd).
"We were in contact with the executive. When we raised the benchmark by $2, the executive contributed. And because all three tiers of government have to benefit from this increase, it is the federal government's share of N131 billion that was applied to the federal budget," he explained.
Goje also noted that the National Assembly made some interventionist inclusions in the budget. These included the sum of N10 billion for the takeoff of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, N10 billion for the resumption of work on the abandoned Alhaji Bwari-Delta (FCT) railway line, and N5 billion for the completion of work on the abandoned Baro Inland Water Port, Niger State.
Other inclusions were the addition of N10 billion to the N65 billion proposal for the Amnesty programme, N4 billion for the upgrade of the Abeokuta airport as an alternative to the Lagos airport, N25 billion to the budget for roads construction and rehabilitation, and N2.5 billion for the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP).
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Apkabio, called for proper implementation of the budget, particularly the capital component, which constitutes about 30 per cent on the entire budget.
"The implementation of the 2016 budget fell short of what we have done before. If we wonder why investors are not coming in, if we put more money in capital projects, the investors would come. I hope by 2018, we would have capital expenditure of 40 or 45 per cent," he said.
Akpabio also urged the executive not to make political affiliations of states a consideration for budgetary releases, "so that every state would feel the impact of the budget".
"When the elections are over, governance starts," Akpabio said.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) congratulated Senate President Bukola Saraki and House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, for opening up the budget of the National Assembly.
"When I saw copies of the (legislative) budget this morning, I saw that the budget is not just open, but explicitly open," he said.
Melaye added that the 2017 federal budget was a departure from the absence of details that used to characterise the budgeting process in Nigeria, "as every detail and item on the spending bill would be accessible to Nigerians".
He also called on the president to present the 2018 budget on time, to ensure its timely passage.
"We pray there would be periodic releases to make sure the impact is felt in full," he added.
After the remarks on the budget, the lawmakers transmitted the document to the presidency on Thursday for presidential assent.
Presiding, the Senate President lauded the Committees on Appropriation and Finance for the work on the budget, stating: "This is the first time we had a public hearing as part of the process for the 2017 Appropriation Act; the level of engagement and contributions of the civil society have played a part in making this budget a different and remarkable one.
"Another first we achieved was seeing that the line-by-line details of the budget were laid down along with the bill. Again, this is a great achievement on our part and I commend you all.
"Another first we have achieved is making the budget of the National Assembly available to the public which has been an issue for a long time.
"I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve and we do hope that with this budget of recovery, we believe has reflected equity.
"It has ensured efficiency and adequate resources to all relevant sectors, which will go a long way in helping Nigerians to come out of the economic recession and create growth."
Saraki also commended the executive for the co-operation and consultations with the legislature during the budgetary process, adding that this was a remarkable difference from 2016 budgetary process.
He also commended the executive for the level of implementation of the 2016 budget, and expressed hope that there would be improvement in the implementation of the 2017 budget.
"As for preparing for 2018, it is clear that the minimum of three to four months is required, in order to be able to do a good job, and that is why we are appealing to the executive to ensure that by end of September at the latest, we can get the 2018 budget so that we can keep to the December or January passage," Saraki added.
After the budget's passage, the Special Adviser to the President, National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, expressed appreciation to the federal legislature for the "ground breaking" passage of the budget.
Speaking with newsmen, he also lauded what he described as the commendable working relationship between both arms of government in the course of the budgetary process.
Enang however declined to comment on the budget details, saying he could only do so after the transmitted budget has been considered by the executive.
In the House, members responded with a voice vote of "carried", when Dogara read out each budget item and clause.
However, there was a brief uproar and objection to the vote for the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) when N51.93 billion was announced for it.
The lawmakers, who are obviously swayed by emotions especially by recent controversy in the office, felt the amount was too much for the office.
But their objection was ignored, as the Speaker overruled them and moved on to other items, paving the way for the budget's passage in the House.