President Muhammmadu Buhari Wednesday signed the 2018 budget and decried that lawmakers made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects he submitted for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.
The National Assembly had on May 16 passed the 2018 Appropriation Bill, increasing the proposal of N8.612 trillion presented by President Buhari last December to N9.120 trillion.
While signing the budget at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Buhari noted that he had intend to use the fiscal document to consolidate the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria's Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.
He said it was in that regard that he was concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly had made to the budget proposals he presented.
While expressing concerns over some changes introduced into the 2018 budget by the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, listed the examples of projects from which cuts were made.
He listed them as follows:
a The provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of 11.5 billion Naira.
b. Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of 7.5 billion Naira.
c. The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by 3.9 billion Naira from 4 billion Naira to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
d. The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of 7.45 billion Naira.
e. The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by 3 billion Naira at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.
f. The provision for the Federal Government's National Housing Programme was cut by 8.7 billion Naira.
g. At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of 5 billion Naira was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
h. The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of 14.5 billion Naira.
i. The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira which will further delay the completion of this critical project.
j. The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from 5 billion Naira to 3.4 billion Naira.
k. About seventy (70) new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry's vote. Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly."
The president said another area of concern was the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of N73.96 billion, adding that "Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance.
"An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by N14.5 billion, from N125 billion to N139.5 billion without any discussion with the executive."
He said despite all these observations, he had decided to sign the 2018 budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of the economy which, he noted, had doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.