Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC

Director General of Nigeria’s Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, has disclosed that all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), have complied with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives to submit details of their 2018 budget estimates to the appropriate committees of the National Assembly.

The President had last month given March 23 as deadline for all Agencies, Corporations and Government owned companies to submit details of their 2018 budget estimates to the appropriate committees of the National Assembly

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines at the 2018 IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington DC, Akabueze assured those seeking updates that the compliance is total.

Asked what plans are in place to drive aggressive implementation as soon as the budget is passed, the DG Budget said:

“The MDAs, learning from the experience of the past, are gearing up for the budget to be passed and taking preliminary steps in their procurement and waiting for the budget. We hope that, as was the case for the 2017 budget, though not passed until June, we still managed to attain a nominal level of capital expenditure that is the highest in the nation’s history.”

Asked the amount spent on capital expenditure in 2017 budget, Akabueze said, “As of the last count, about N1.3 trillion had been released on the capital budget for 2017.”

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On why recurrent budget was still high, he said:

“When you look at the high non-debt recurrent component of the budget – 70 per cent of that is personnel cost. Therefore, the only realistic way you can drastically reduce recurrent expenditure now is to cut personnel.

“At this time, that is not an option that the government is looking at. Therefore, the focus now is on containing other aspects of recurrent expenditure and shoring up revenue.”

Asked if the politics of 2019 elections would not affect budget implementation if finally passed into law, Akabueze said:

“People have to run election on something. People have to go back to their constituencies and say what they have done. Therefore, I don’t think pursuing electoral objectives is inconsistent with the objective of implementing the budget because, at the end of the day, you have to show what you have done. Instead, the election should provide strong impetus for people to make an effort to implement the 2018 budget.”

On compliance on VAIDs extension affecting driving revenue, he said:

“No, I don’t think the reasons given for extension included expectations falling below. There were appeals. You and I are Nigerians. We tend to leave these things to the last minutes. When a lot of professional firms representing their clients on this made presentations, it was thought that the idea was to make Nigerians raise their tax status and become compliance. It was not intended to criminalise anybody. So, government had to grant the extension.”