Why Buhari has not signed 2018 budget — Udoma

Nigerians expecting to have approved 2018 appropriation law before the expiration of 2017 budget next Thursday may have to wait a little longer as President Muhammadu Buhari is at the moment reviewing the Appropriation Bill recently passed by the National Assembly.

On November 7, 2017, the president presented the N8.6 trillion “Budget of Consolidation” to a joint session of the National Assembly for consideration and approval of the Bill for signing into law.

The decision by government to send in the budget proposal to the National Assembly a bit earlier than usual, the Minister of Budget & National Planning, Udoma Udoma said, was an attempt to return the country to the usual January to December budget cycle from this year.

But, after waiting for over seven months, the National Assembly on May 10 passed a revised version of the proposal, raising the overall budget outlay by over N508 billion.

From the initial proposal of over N8.6 trillion presented by the president, the lawmakers increased the budget to over N9.12 trillion, with a fiscal deficit of over N1.955 trillion or 1.73 percent to gross domestic product (GDP).

Since the submission of the revised budget, speculations have been rife that the presidency suspected the lawmakers may have adjusted the budget to accommodate new items not in the draft proposal.

In an interview on Monday in Abuja, Mr Udoma said the final passage of the budget would be delayed a little further to give the president sufficient time to review the approved Bill by the National Assembly.

“The President is currently reviewing the budget. As soon as he is through, he will sign it. That is what l can tell you for now. As you know, we have a minimum window of 30 days,” Mr Udoma told BusinessDay in an interview.

He did not say how long it would take the president to complete the review and sign the budget into law.

The 2018 appropriation bill, the largest in the country’s history, was premised on some key revenue assumptions, including crude oil price benchmark of $51 (increased by $6 above the $45 proposed by the President).

The lawmakers only retained 2.3 million barrels per day production capacity, with an exchange rate of N305 to the dollar.

Sectors regarded as critical in the budget include Power, Works and Housing, Defence as well as Transportation.

The four sectors got the highest capital allocation of N1.09 trillion out of total sum of N2.873 trillion in the 2018 budget.

If by Thursday, June 7, the President does sign the budget into law, analysts say the implication would be that the country would stay from that day without an annual budget for 2018 till further notice.

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