…Senators allege phantom projects
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, IHENACHO NWOSU and TAIWO AMODU Abuja
Two striking highlights dominated the passage of the 2013 Budget by the two chambers of the National Assembly in Abuja yesterday. One:The House of Representatives’ feud with the Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Arunma Oteh, assumed a new dimension when the lawmakers did not allocate a kobo to the federal agency.
The Reps and Oteh’s face-off culminated in the former’s call on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack her for alleged incompetence. Ms Oteh had accused former Chairman, House Committee on Capital Market, Herman Hembe of demanding a bribe from her which culminated in his removal. When contacted over the zero allocation yesterday, SEC told our reporter: no comment.
On its part, the Senate said that in passing the estimates, it discovered some fictitious projects in the budget which did not appear in 2011 and 2012. However, the National Assembly raised the budget to N4.987 trillion from the N4.924 trillion presented to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan in October this year. Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Ahmed Maccido, disclosed the status of the projects when he presented the N4.987 trillion budget to the house yesterday, explaining that the National Assembly Joint Committees on Appropriation and Finance discovered in the course of preparing the new budget that some projects which were hitherto non-existent in 2011 and 2012 budgets were listed in the 2013 budget as “on-going.”
His words: “Conceptualisation of the budget by the executive is still a big issue that we must confront as representatives of the people. There should be a verifiable template for budgeting especially on capital projects.
If the painful sight of abandoned projects in Nigeria would be a thing of the past, then on-going projects must be properly verified. A situation where projects not found in the 2011 and 2012 budgets are found in 2013 as on-going is very misleading. In the same vein, a situation where uncompleted projects are not included in the budgets of succeeding years is wasteful. But Maccido commended the executive for the early submission of the budget and expressed the hope that the same spirit would be extended in 2013 for the 2014 budget.
In the House yesterday, the lawmakers said the capital component of the 2012 budget would be rolled over to next year. The House said: “Notwithstanding the provisions of section 19 of the Finance(Control and Management)Act,2004 or section1(I) and (iii) of the 2012 Appropriation Act or any other finance law for the time being in force, all unutilised ,unexecuted and unimplemented Capital Expenditure Component of the 2012 Appropriation Act shall be rolled over and shall be construed to form part of the 2013 Appropriation Act, provided that the unutilised capital expenditure component of 2012 Budget shall lapse on the 12th day of April 2013”. The House, however, came up with a surprise.
It gave a zero allocation to the SEC whom it has been at war with. It directed that “all revenues to SEC, however described, including all fees received, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally and externally generated revenues shall not be spent by the Securities and Exchange Commission for recurrent or capital purposes or for any other matter, nor liabilities therein incurred except with prior appropriation and approval by the National Assembly”. A breakdown of the 2013 budget as passed by the House showed that the recurrent expenditure was placed at N2.386 trillion while the capital expenditure stood at N1.072 trillion.
Under the capital expenditure, works got the lion’s share with N168,173,800,000,followed by water resources that was allocated N84,228,166,366, power got N73,159,378,866 House Deputy Speaker, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, who chaired the session, before hitting the gavel to signify the passage of the budget, explained that the decision of the chamber to brush everything aside and pass the budget was in line with the promise given by the House that it will be through with the budget before the end of December. Corroborating Ihedioha’s submissions, House spokesman, Zakari Mohammed, noted that though the House had some reservations about the budget it had to pass it in fulfilment of its promise and in the general interest of the masses. Earlier, the Chairman of Appropriation, John Enoh, who raised the motion on the Appropriation Bill, lamented that Nigeria was “still in the throes of a worrisome infrastructure deficit across the length and breadth of the nation which should be of huge concern to all.
He advised that the “executive should be more circumspect in its budget assignments to avoid acute cases of over-budgeting on one hand and in other instances, under- budgeting.” Also, the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, has commended both the Presidency and the legislature for prompt submission and passage of the 2013 budget. She described the passage of the new budget “as a pivotal moment in our nation’s history as it is the first time since 1999 that the budget of a succeeding year has been passed in the preceding year.”
Meanwhile, the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP) has described the speedy passage of the 2013 budget by the National Assembly as a loud commentary on the maturity of the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives and a clear indication that democracy was not only gaining firm footing, but safe in the hands of the PDP.” A statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said that good governance was directly dependent on the twin factors of patriotism and capacity for delivery, saying that the PDP-led National Assembly has demonstrated both. “ The National Assembly which our great party leads, has demonstrated that it has come of age in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities.
It has also shown that the people of Nigeria is its primary constituency and that their interest is supreme. The seriousness and the high degree of scrutiny which guided the consideration of the 2013 budget proposal, serves directly, the long stringent quest for transparent and workable national budget. We commend them for this,” he said.