National Assembly raises 2021 budget by N580 billion, approves N13.588 trillion.

The two chambers of the National Assembly yesterday passed the 2021 Appropriation Bill, increasing the budget size from N13.08 trillion presented to them by President Muhammad Buhari 11 weeks ago to N13.588 trillion.

The passage of the 2021 budget followed consideration and adoption of harmonised reports separately submitted to them by their Committees on Appropriation.

The two chambers increased the 2021 budget by about N580 billion and pegged daily crude oil production at 1.86 million barrels per day, while oil benchmark price was fixed at $40 per barrel.

They approved N379 to the dollar as the official exchange rate while the GDP growth rate was pegged at 3 per cent.

Highlights of the report approved by the Senate showed aggregate expenditure to be N13,588,027,886,175, statutory transfer of N496,528,471,273, recurrent expenditure of N5,641,970,060,680, capital expenditure of N4,125,149,354,222, debt service will be N3,324,380,000,000 and N5,196,007,992,292 is for budget deficit.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), said the committee while processing the 2021 Appropriation Bill, noted that “the impact of COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected virtually every aspect of life, businesses, individuals and government, especially the revenue accruals to the government.

“There is a remarkable increase in Nigeria’s oil price, which is hovering between $47 and $50 per barrel in the international market.

“This is above the benchmark price of $40 per barrel approved by the National Assembly.

“The discovery of under projection of the total revenue to the tune of N100billion.

“The need to enhance the structure of the budget to allow for the reflation of the economy in order to accelerate the process of taking out the economy from its current state of recession.

“The dire need for optimal allocation and judicious utilisation of the scarce resources available for economic recovery, diversification, enhancement of competitiveness and ensuring social inclusion.”

The committee recommended that “in view of the increasing global oil prices beyond the benchmark of $40, the executive may wish to submit a supplementary Appropriation Bill whenever it deems fit in order to fund critical areas that will further help to accelerate the movement of our economy out of its current state of recession.”

In a speech after the passage of the budget bill, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, said the National Assembly would not accede to another request from the executive to extend the capital implementation of the 2020 budget.

Lawan stated that the National Assembly’s approval granting an extension for the implementation of the capital component of the 2020 budget last week should therefore be fully utilised by ministries, departments and agencies of government.

He added that the extension, lasting till March 31, 2021, alongside the implementation of the 2021 budget starting in January 2021, will guarantee sufficient injection of funds into the economy.

He said: “For Nigerians, this budget that has been passed in the National Assembly today is to ensure that the economy is supported fully through public expenditure because the economy of our country depends largely on public expenditure.

“The budget extension period for implementation of the 2020 budget, which we did last year, is to ensure that the funds that are available for 2020 are not lost.

“So, there will be two budgets running; funds from January 1, 2021, up to March 31, 2021; and then the implementation of the 2021 budget itself to start from January. That is the absolute fight against the recession we are suffering from.

“With a projected three per cent growth in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the 2021 budget, we believe that the recession, which Nigeria is in, will be over before the end of the first quarter.”

However, in addition to passing the 2021 budget yesterday, the Senate also passed the sum of N453,200 billion as the 2020 fiscal year budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The passage of the budget for a third reading followed the presentation of the report of its Committee on Niger Delta Affairs by the Vice Chairman of the Committee, Senator Amos Kilawangs Bulus ( APC Gombe South).

The committee, in its recommendation, noted that the revenue profile of the commission for 2020 comprised revenue brought forward of N12 billion, federal government’s contribution of N63,506,151,945.00, Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) and Others’ contributions, totalling N317,493,848,055.00, Ecological fund of N60 billion and other internally realised income of N200 million.

Bulus added that after due consideration, the committee recommended that the expenditure profile of the NDDC for 2020 should include a personnel cost of N27.389billion, the overhead expenditure of N13,937,244,107, internal capital expenditure of N2,793,755,893 and development projects at the cost of N409.080billion.

The committee recommended that the 2020 budget of the NDDC should elapse on March 31, 2021.

The Senate accordingly approved all the recommendations.

The House of Representatives also passed the 2021 budget totalling N13,588,027,886,175.

The House put the inflation growth rate at 11.95 per cent, while retained revenue was out at N7.89 trillion.

In the approved budget, the House approved N134 billion for the National Assembly as against N128 billion proposed by the president.

The breakdown showed that the sum of N51,994,511,954 was appropriated to the House alone, while the National Assembly Service Commission was appropriated the sum of N5,734,166,662.

The spokesperson of the House, Hon. Ben Kalu, told journalists at the end of the special plenary to pass the budget that the National Assembly increased the budget based on the realities on ground.

He said with the passing of the budget, the National Assembly has been able to pass the buck to the executive by ensuring that the January – December budget cycle is maintained.

He, therefore, called on the executive to ensure early release of the budget and also to ensure that releases are cash-backed.

In his remarks after the passage of the budget, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said over the last two months, the House had been occupied primarily with efforts to complete work on the 2021 Appropriation Bill to ensure passage before the end of this year.

He noted that the January-to-December budget cycle was necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the country’s annual budgets to meet the nation’s development challenges.

Gbajabiamila stated that this standard would be maintained throughout the tenure of the present legislature.

The speaker, however, said inadequacies of the country’s economy, healthcare system, internal security and justice architecture have eroded many people’s faith in the Nigerian project.

He stated: “Despite spirited government efforts, our economy is still overly reliant on the sale of crude oil. Vast swathes of potential in tourism and agriculture, manufacturing and technology, media and entertainment remain untapped due to insecurity, infrastructure deficits, policy and regulatory inconsistency.

“The risks we face are not abstract. In the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, we saw it in the flames that engulfed our cities. We saw it two weeks ago in Zarbamari with the massacre of citizens farming for survival and most recently in the abduction of young boys seeking to improve their lives through education in Kankara.”

Meanwhile, both chambers of the National Assembly have adjourned plenary till January 26, 2021.

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