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Senate extends 2020 budget implementation amid 2021 budget delay

The Senate Wednesday extended the 2020 budget implementation till March 31. This followed an amendment of section 12 with a proviso that it affects only the capital aspect of the Appropriation Act 2020.

BusinessDay learnt that the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, had sent a correspondence to the National Assembly, requesting extension of time.

The Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, in the lead debate, stated that there was poor implementation of the capital budget by the Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) in 2020.

Blaming this on COVID-19 pandemic, he said many MDAs had lots of unutilised funds.

“A lot of capital works were not undertaken. There is the need to allow MDAs to utilise the funds to reflate the economy,” he said.

Supporting the motion, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC – Kebbi Central) said reflating the economy was the only way to ease the tension of lockdown and recession.

Consequently, the senate in a Committee of Whole amended section 12 of the Appropriation Act, 2020 and extended the implementation till March 31.

The amended section subsequently passed by the Upper Chamber reads: “Section 12 is hereby amended by adding a proviso to wit: provided that the implementation of the Capital Expenditure in the 2020 Appropriations Bill shall lapse on 31st March, 2020.”

This has, however, fuelled the speculation that the 2021 budget might not be passed before the end of the budget year cycle of December 31 as earlier promised by the National Assembly.

There is also an implication that two budgets might be running concurrently in 2021 on capital budget, at least for the first three months.

But the Senate’s spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, who later addressed journalists after the plenary, said the upper chamber took the decision to save the country from mismanaging the released funds.

He said, “The essence of the amendment done by the senate and I believe the House of Representatives would also do same, is to save the country huge amount of money that might be challenged if the implementation of the 2020 is not allowed to run its full course as far as capital budget is concerned.

“The 2020 appropriation act was passed ahead of January 1 commencement of implementation and section 12 of that law provided that the period for expiration of the appropriation act 2020 was January to December 31, 2020. But you also know that because of the COVID-19 pandemic with the attendant lockdown of the economy and the society for months….and of course the draw back of the pandemic also affected the price of crude in the international market.

“This necessitated the amendment of the appropriation act, amendment of the Medium Term Framework and the Fiscal Strategy Paper and slight amendment of the Finance Act, 2020.

“As it were as at today the release for the implementation of the capital expenditure of the budget is between 75% and 100% and in that regard within the remaining period of this year would not allow for full utilisation of funds already released.”

Basiru said it would be difficult to mop up money already released to MDAs for capital budget.

He said, “The fund already released would have to be mopped up but in order to ensure fuller implementation of the 2020 budget, which we believe is very critical to stimulation of the economy, the senate made a slight amendment to the appropriation act to permit the implementation of the capital aspect of the 2020 appropriation act till the end of March 2021.”

The Senator representing Osun Central indicated that the 2020 budget would run concurrently with the 2021 budget when passed.

He said, “It (2020 budget) does not also affect the implementation of the 2021 appropriation act. What we have done is to creatively ensure that we use the power given to us in section 4 of the 1999 constitution to make law for the good of the people of this country.

“To ensure we get the benefit of implementation of the capital aspect of the 2020 appropriation act is not lost on Nigeria and of course we would be able to derive the benefit of the stimulation of the economy.

“As it were the bill has passed the first, second and the third reading and is also being concurrently considered by the House of Reps
The 9th senate has been committed to working in the area of stimulating our economy against the effect of COVID-19.”

Justifying reasons for the amendment, Basiru said it could not be delayed because, “If we delay the implementation of 2021 budget till March, it means our staff will not collect salary including myself. As well as we would not even be able to power this house

“The bill passed by the senate today on the extension of the implementation of the 2020 appropriation act is In order not to give room for a lacuna of what is not.”

Earlier, the Senate announced Monday for the passing of the 2021 budget.

It also fixed Thursday for the consideration of the Conference Committee Report on 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, made the announcement at the plenary after a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC – Kebbi North) and seconded by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP – Abia South).

Lawan said the senate would hold a special session to pass the harmonised 2021 budget.

According to him, the delay in the passage of the budget was to allow the Appropriations Committee include a late request for additional expenditures from the Executive arm of government.

“Our Committee on Appropriation has been working round the clock. We had planned to receive the report of the Committee on Appropriations today, but there was a late request for some more expenditures from the Executive arm of Government, and we want to ensure that our committee produced a clean document, so they can’t present this document today.

“However, the committee has said the report will be ready by weekend. Consequently, we will hold a special session on Monday, the 21st of December, 2020, just to consider and pass the budget 2021.

“This is in keeping with our legislative agenda of ensuring that the annual budget has a January to December cycle. We did that last year, and by the grace of God, we will do it again,” Lawan said.

The Senate also stepped down consideration of the Conference Committee Report 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).

The request to step down consideration of the 2021 – 2023 MTEF report till Thursday was moved by the Senate Leader and seconded by the Minority Leader.

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