PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has accused the National Assembly of altering the 2022 budget proposal without ‘apparent justification’ and explanation.
The President, on Friday, had signed the N17.13 trillion 2022 budget into law, different from the proposed budget of N16.3 trillion.
The president was concerned about the changes to the original budget proposal in the form of new insertions, outright removals, reductions and/or increases in the amounts allocated to projects, reduction of the provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects and the introduction of 6,576 new projects into the budget.
The president also identified some worrisome changes in the budget that included an increase in projected Federal Government independent revenue by N400 billion, reduction in the provision for sinking fund to retire maturing bonds by N22 billion, reduction of the provisions for the non-regular allowances of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Navy by N15 billion and N5 billion respectively -all without any explanation.
He also expressed his reservations on the inclusion of new provisions totaling N36.59 billion for National Assembly’s projects in the service wide vote, which he said was contrary to the principles of separation of powers and financial autonomy of the legislative arm government.
The president queried that most of the projects inserted related to the responsibilities of state and local governments and did not appear to have been properly conceptualised, designed, and valued.
He recounted that during the presentation of the 2022 Appropriation Bill, he stated that the 2022 fiscal year would be crucial in his administration’s efforts to complete critical agenda projects and improve the general living conditions of Nigerians.
President Buhari said he would revert to the National Assembly with a request for an amendment as soon as the lawmakers returned from their recess to ensure that critical ongoing projects cardinal to his administration did not suffer a setback due to reduced funding.
In his response to the President accusation, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the lawmakers were correct in their decisions.
He said the executive’s reservations were not unusual and might not necessarily coincide with the legislature’s.
Cases of budget padding under Buhari’s government
There have been allegations of budget padding under Buhari’s government since 2016.
The first allegation came to public light when Honourable Abulmumin Jibrin, the then House Committee Chairman on Appropriation, blew the whistle of padding in the 2016 budget.
Jibrin, in 2016, alleged that Yakubu Dogara, the then speaker of the House of Representatives; his deputy, Yusuf Lasun; House whip, Alhassan Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, had inserted projects worth several billions of naira into the 2016 budget. Jibrin later added another lawmaker, Abonta Abonta, to the list.
Among the many allegations was the introduction of “about 2,000 projects … amounting to about N284 billion” into the 2016 budget by members of ’10 out of the 96 Standing Committees of the House.’
In 2018, President Buhari accused lawmakers of budget padding when he signed the 2018 budget.
According to him, the projects inserted by the National Assembly would be “be difficult to execute.”
The president, in his speech in 2018, disclosed that 6,403 projects amounting to N578 billion were added by the National Assembly, noting that the federal legislature had also made some cuts “amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration.”