Nigeria: NASS Passes N8.9trn Budget, Okays N160bn for Minimum Wage

(file photo).

The Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday unanimously raised the Appropriation Bill to N8.916 trillion.

The amount approved by the National Assembly is N90billion higher than the N8.826 trillion President Buhari laid before the lawmakers in December 2018.

Before the harmonisation of the budget, the House of Representatives had approved N8.906 trillion while the Senate passed N8.916 trillion.

The passage of the appropriation bill by the National Assembly came a month to the inauguration of President Buhari second term administration on May 29 and almost five months after he sent it to the legislature for deliberation and approval.

One of the striking aspects of the budget passed by the legislature was the inclusion of N160 billion for the payment of the new national minimum wage.

On April 18, 2019, President Buhari signed the N30,000 minimum wage bill into law and declared that it took immediate effect.

The lawmakers explained yesterday that the allocation covers "public service wage adjustment for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) including the arrears of promotion and salary increases."

They also increased the deficit budget proposed by Buhari from N1.86trillion to N1.908 trillion. The passage of the budget came after the consideration and adoption of the report submitted by National Assembly Committees on Appropriations.

In the upgraded budget, the National Assembly allocated the sum of N2.094 trillion to capital expenditure, recurrent expenditure got N4.055 trillion, statutory transfers N502 billion, fiscal deficit was raised to N1.908 trillion (1.37 per cent), special intervention fund N500 billion and deficit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 1.37 percent.

The N90 billion increase covered N10 billion for the federal government intervention funds for victims of bandits' attacks in Zamfara State; N24billion for the payment of severance package of members of the National Assembly; allowances for incoming legislators and their legislative aides as well as N56 billion increments in the budgetary allocations of key security and defence institutions such as the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, the Nigeria Police Force and the paramilitary agencies.

In passing the budget, the National Assembly adopted the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) with 2.3million barrel per day (bpd) oil production, $60 per barrel as oil price benchmark; N305/$1 as the exchange rate

The chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, said that the increase in the deficit was due to "provisions for the severance benefits of the outgoing legislators and legislative aides, the induction/orientation and the inauguration of new legislators all of which occur once in four years, but were inadvertently not captured in the 2019 Budget proposal. There was also the need to provide more funds for the security and intelligence agencies to deal with emerging/unforeseen security challenges in the country."

A breakdown of the N2.094 trillion capital expenditure showed that the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing got the highest allocation of N394.906billion followed by the Federal Ministry of Transportation which received N179. 384.

The third position was occupied by the Ministry of Defence, which was allocated N159.125 billion while the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was given N107.218 billion. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources got N92.178 billion.

Goje, however, said that the president was at liberty to submit more financial requests for approval by the National Assembly to further fund the minimum wage increase if what NASS approved was inadequate.

When the Senate passed the MTEF/FSP three weeks ago, it had approved the GDP growth rate of three per cent and inflation growth rate of 9.98 per cent.

Also approved as parts of the MTEF were total federally collectable revenue of N14.89 trillion; net oil and gas revenue after costs, deductions and derivations amounting to N7.60 trillion; net non-oil revenue after costs, deductions and derivations of N2.38trillion, and federal government-retained revenue of N7.92 trillion.

NASS To Transmit Appropriation Bill To President Tomorrow

Apparently to make up for lost grounds, the National Assembly will transmit the 2019 Appropriation Bill it passed yesterday to President Buhari for assent tomorrow

The chairman of the House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki, told journalists after the passage of the budget that the document would be sent to Buhari for assent on Thursday (tomorrow).

Dawaki said: "As you are aware, we passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill today, and hopefully by Thursday, it will be transmitted to the president for assent."

He expressed the optimism that the money bill as passed by both chambers would be given accelerated assent by the president.

According to Dawaki, "we did not make any significant increase on the budget, but we sustained the 2.3 million barrels per day oil production as proposed by the executive; we sustained the dollar at N305 as originally proposed and also sustained $60 per barrel of oil."

On the increment, the lawmaker said that "while we were working on the budget, there was a resolution in the Senate that the Executive arm of government should intervene in the security situation in Zamfara State and we made a provision of N10 billion.

"We also made a provision of N24.6 billion for severance benefits of the outgoing legislators and legislative aides, the induction/orientation and the inauguration of new legislators, all of which occur once in four years," he said.

The lawmaker added that the National Assembly voted another N100 billion for the family homes fund, a federal government's special intervention programme on social housing.

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