By Saleh Shehu(Abuja)

Sen. Ahmad Lawan, President of the Senate

Following the hitch-free program and warm reception given to President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR during his presentation of the 2020 Appropriation bill before a joint session of the National Assembly as well as the attendant seriousness with which both legislative chambers are now working assiduously hard on the bill to ensure it is passed in record time, a coalition of Civil Society Organization, CSO, making an assessment on the quality of the budget, has commended the president of the senate Distinguished Senator Ahmad Lawan on what they described as ‘a job well done.’

In a press statement made available to newsmen in Abuja recently and signed by the National Coordinator of the coalition, Engr. Johnson Eze, the group noted that the obvious smooth sail of legislative activities in National Assembly since Sen Ahmad Lawan took over the mantle of leadership indicates that he is the most competent person to occupy that seat in recent times and that the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC made the right choice in nominating him for the senators.

“We are all witness to the unruly disruptions that characterized some of the previous presidential Budget presentation sessions of which has portrayed the legislators in bad light before the executives and Nigerians and that is not good for democracy. ‘Democracy’ is not ‘them all Crazy’. But this time we saw a high level of decorum in the whole activity which however implies that discipline has suddenly returned to National Assembly session. I think the whole credit goes to Sen Lawan. He is doing well and must be accorded that recognition” the statement read

“When a leader is doing well it is very important to point it out just as it is expedient to criticize and condemn bad leadership. When we praise a leader for achievements it is a motivation to do more. In all honesty, Sen Lawan is doing well as the president of the 9th senate, we must recognise that and urge the Senate, other arms of government and indeed all Nigerians to give him all the support he deserves”. The statement added.

Further the statement extoled Sen. Lawan for returning productive peace and good working relationship between the legislature and the executives which president Buhari hinted on in his budget presentation speech. “Before now it has been sort of cat and dog relationship but since this 9th assembly, it is completely different ball game. Even the sharing of senate standing committee that use to cause crisis took place in an atmosphere of peace. In fact, Senate Lawan is Connoisseur in Legislative Business” the statement concluded

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday presented his proposal for Nigeria’s 2020 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja.

The aggregate expenditure he proposed for the Federal Government in 2020 is N10.33 trillion.

The proposal shows that about a quarter of the sum (N2.45 trillion) will be used for debt servicing, while capital expenditure is expected to gulp N2.14 trillion which excludes the capital component of statutory transfers.

A further breakdown presented by the president shows the expenditure estimate includes statutory transfers of N556.7 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N4.88 trillion and provision for Sinking Fund to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors is N296 billion.

The budget was prepared on the assumption of $57 per barrel with crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day and the exchange rate assumed at N305 to $1.

Other assumptions include real GDP growth of 2.93 per cent while “inflation is expected to remain slightly above single digits in 2020.”

The president said the 2020 Appropriation Bill is designed as a budget of:

  1. Fiscal consolidation, to strengthen the macroeconomic environment;
  2. Investing in critical infrastructure, human capital development and enabling institutions, especially in key job-creating sectors;
  3. Incentivising private sector investment essential to complement the Government’s development plans, policies and programmes; and
  4. Enhancing social investment programs to further deepen their impact on those marginalised and most vulnerable Nigerians.

The president also presented a Finance Bill for consideration and passage into law.
The sum of N8.155 trillion is estimated as the total Federal Government revenue in 2020 and comprises oil revenue N2.64 trillion, non-oil tax revenues of N1.81 trillion and other revenues of N3.7 trillion. This, the president said, is seven per cent higher than the 2019 comparative estimate of N7.594 trillion inclusive of the Government Owned Enterprises.

He explained that the increasing share of non-oil revenues underscores confidence in his administration’s revenue diversification strategies, going forward.
“Furthermore, in our efforts to enhance transparency and accountability, we shall continue our strict implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) to capture the domiciliary accounts in our foreign missions and those linked to Government-Owned Enterprises,” Mr Buhari said.

For statutory transfers, which are the first-line charge, the president said N556.7 billion has been provided for in the budget and it includes:

  1. N125 billion for the National Assembly;
  2. N110 billion for the Judiciary;
  3. N37.83 billion for the North East Development Commission (NEDC);
  4. N44.5 billion for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF);
  5. N111.79 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); and
  6. N80.88 billion for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which is now supervised by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

Mr Buhari announced the increase of the budgetary allocation to the National Human Rights Commission from N1.5 billion to N2.5 billion. This 67 per cent increase in funding is done to enable the Commission to perform its functions more effectively, he said.

The non-debt recurrent expenditure includes N3.6 trillion for personnel and pension costs, an increase of N620.28 billion over 2019. This increase reflects the new minimum wage as well as our proposals to improve remuneration and welfare of our Police and Armed Forces.

Overhead costs are projected at N426.6 billion in 2020. He said additional provisions were made only for the newly created ministries.

The Senate President in his welcome address thanked President Buhari for the occasion and promised to ensure quick and thorough action on the budget. In in his word:

Mr President , on behalf of my colleagues, Distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives, I welcome you and members of your entourage to this first Joint Session of the 9th National Assembly for the presentation of the 2020 Budget Estimates.

All of us members of the National Assembly here today, and indeed all Nigerians, look forward to this day with great expectations. As representatives of the people, we are assembled here to listen and receive the fiscal plans for the year 2020, for the people that we represent. For every Nigerian, this day is significant as you unfold the plans of the Federal Government on how our socio-economic wellbeing will be enhanced in the 2020 financial year. Your Excellency, all eyes and ears in Nigeria and indeed the world, are on this event and the moment is yours.

Your Excellency, today marks another day of exercising the constitutional obligations and mandates by both the Legislature and the Executive as provided for in Section 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.

This function being the first in the 9th session of the National Assembly, makes it even more significant as both the Legislature and the Executive have demonstrated readiness and commitment to work together in order to pass the 2020 Budget in a good and desirable time. Clearly, this effort is to enable the Federal government provide those laudable objectives of physical infrastructure and socio-economic services to our citizens.

The public, as well as the private sectors need a reliable Budget cycle that is predictable, and reliable for planning and execution of their fiscal and financial policies and programmes. It is therefore, necessary that the present cycle is changed to a January-December cycle. In this regard, the National Assembly, and the Executive must work together to ensure the realization of this important objective.

The National Assembly after the receipt of the Budget Estimates today, will swing into swift action, to start work. Both Chambers of the National Assembly have constituted their Committees, we are therefore, ready to start processing the Budget estimates.

The 9th National Assembly has shown capacity, commitment and willingness to treat legislative matters that will impact on the lives of our citizens with dispatch and every sense of urgency. This was clearly demonstrated last week, when we received, processed and passed the request of Mr. President on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).

Your Excellency, the National Assembly will treat the 2020 Budget Estimates with the same commitment or even more. In our effort to pass the Budget, we will also be guided by the legislative requirement of a thorough scrutiny.

Mr. President, the National Assembly Committees are ready to receive the Honourable Ministers and other heads of government agencies for the defense of the Budget estimates of the various MDAs. In order for timely passage, all MDAs are expected to appear before the Committees for the defense of their Budget estimates within the month of October. We have earmarked the month of October to be the sole window for all Budget defense activities in this year, by all MDAs.

In this regard, our Committees will be expected to conclude their work on Budget defense within October, this year. The subsequent necessary legislative work will be carried out in November and December, leading to eventual passage before the end of this year.

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