N’Assembly jacks up budget by N143bn, passes estimates Thursday

The size of the 2017 budget has risen by over N143bn, a report of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations indicated on Tuesday.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s original estimates, laid before a joint session of the Senate and the House on December 14, 2016, tallied at N7.298tn.

ut the new figure reported by the House committee on Tuesday stood at N7.441tn, a difference of over N143bn.

The report was laid by the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Mustapha Bala-Dawaki, at the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

No comments were taken on the report, but in line with legislative tradition, copies will be distributed to members for consideration and possible passage of the budget this week.

The highlights of the report showed that 434.412bn will go to statutory transfers, while another 1.841tn is set aside for debt servicing.

The sum of 177.460bn is recommended for “sinking fund for maturing bonds.”

The recurrent expenditure captured in the new report is 2.990tn.

In Buhari’s initial proposal, recurrent expenditure was N2.98tn.

The capital component in the new report, laid on Tuesday, is 2.174tn as against the N2.24tn presented by Buhari.

The report clarified that the new figure was  “exclusive of capital expenditure in  statutory  transfers,” details of which would be contained in the breakdown of the budget.

Findings by The PUNCH showed that the National Assembly would benefit from the additional N143bn, among several other sub-heads in the budget.

For instance, the National Assembly reportedly added N10bn to its budget, bringing the total of its share to N125bn.

“This is an increase from the N115bn available to the legislature in 2015 and 2016,” an official, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Tuesday, explained.

“Remember that for many years up to 2014, the budget of the National Assembly was N150bn.

“It dropped to N120bn in 2015 and again went down to N115bn in 2016.

“What has happened now is to raise it by N10bn to N125bn, looking at the challenges brought about by exchange rate fluctuations.”

The PUNCH further learnt that the crude oil benchmark in the new report was raised to $44 per barrel, up from the initial $42.5 earlier sent to the legislature by the the President.

This year’s budget has suffered delays right from last year when the President laid the estimates in December.

Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki has said the National Assembly will pass the 2017 Appropriation Bill on Thursday.

Saraki said this at the plenary on Tuesday after the Senate Committee on Appropriations laid its report on the bill before the lawmakers.

Also, the Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, in an interview with journalists, said the Senate and the House of Representatives had harmonised their versions of the budget before the presentation on Tuesday.Punch          

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