NASS Passes N8.916tn Budget, Earmarks N23.7bn For Lawmakers’ Gratuities, Allowances

The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill, raising the size by about N17bn from the N8.83tn proposed by the Executive to N8.916tn, with N23.7bn earmarked for lawmakers’ severance gratuities and allowances.

The key components of the budget, as passed by the parliament, include N502,058,892,965 for statutory transfers, against the N492.36bn proposed; N2,254,014,113,092 for debt service, against the proposed N2.14tn; N4,055,940,383,684 for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, against the proposed N4.04tn.

Although a sinking fund of N120bn was proposed for the retirement of maturing bonds to local contractors, the lawmakers approved N110bn.

While the sum of N2.031tn (including capital supplementation but excluding the capital component of statutory transfers) was proposed, the lawmakers approved N2,094,950,709,632 “for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2019.”

The Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriations, in their reports considered concurrently by the chambers, had recommended a total budget estimate of N8,906,964,099,373.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, resolved to add N10bn to the Service Wide Vote for the rehabilitation of Zamfara State over the destructions caused by bandits in the North-West state.

The lawmakers also raised the amounts voted to other items in the budget, raising the total proposed amount of N8,826,636,578,915 to N8,916,964,099,373, a difference of about N90.3bn.

A close observation of the estimates passed by the House showed that under Statutory Transfers, the National Assembly raised its budget from the proposed N125bn to N128bn. The legislature got N139.5bn appropriation in 2018.

Under Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure, N1bn was voted for severance benefits to retired heads of government agencies and parastatals, and N2.3bn for the entitlements of former Presidents/Heads of State, Vice-Presidents and Chiefs of General Staff.

Also, about N23.7bn will be spent on “severance gratuity for outgoing legislators and legislative aides, allowances for incoming legislators and legislative aides, and induction programme/inauguration of the Ninth Assembly.”

The sum of N22,682,832,166 was appropriated for the payment of outstanding terminal benefits of Nigerian Airways’ ex-workers.

Operation Lafiya Dole and other special operations by the Armed Forces got N75bn.

Under the executive sub-column, the Presidency will get N430.8bn for recurrent and N18bn for capital expenditures.

Earlier during consideration of the bill at the House, a member from Kano State, Mr Damburam Nuhu, noted the large amount allocated to the Office of the National Security Adviser as against what came to sections of the National Assembly. He said it was important for Nigerians to note that one office got as much as N86bn.

Why we raised budget – Reps budget panel

Addressing journalists after the passage, the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Mr Mustapha Dawaki, said the budget would be transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.

Dawaki also explained why the lawmakers made additional provisions. He, however, kept mum on the increment of the National Assembly’s budget.

The lawmaker said, “The proposal that was laid before the National Assembly, there are two components of the budget, the exchange rate and crude oil production. All these items, the way they were presented by the President, the National Assembly sustained them. The crude oil production (output) was 2.3 million barrels per day and the exchange rate was N305 to a dollar. The benchmark was $60 per barrel. The National Assembly sustained all these; we did not change anything in the executive proposal.

“The only area that is affected is the area of deficit; the deficit sent to us was N1.906tn. There was an increment of N53bn. The reason is that there were so many outstanding items that were not captured in the 2019 budget proposal. One, there was a resolution by the Senate that urged the Federal Government intervention in the security situation in Zamfara, to which N10bn was proposed. We had to make that available in the capital supplementation under the Service Wide Vote.”

He added, “There are also severance benefits for the outgoing legislators and legislative aides, which were not captured in the 2019 proposal. These benefits and expenses always happen in the transition year; that is, the fourth year when legislators are exiting and new ones are coming. We had to make a provision for that, which amounted to N24.6bn. There are also salary arrears of legislative aides that have not been paid for the period of four years, for which N3bn was provided.”

(The Punch)

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