The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the 2019 budget, raising it by over N90.3 billion. In the same token, the deficit was increased from N1.86trillion as contained in the President’s proposal to N1.908 trillion.
This followed the consideration and unanimous adoption of the report by the Committee on Appropriations in both chambers of the National Assembly.
The Committees approved a budget that rose from N8.826 trillion to N8.916 trillion, four months after it was presented by the Executive.
The Appropriations Committee adopted the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) with the following assumptions: 2.3 million barrels daily oil production, benchmark oil price of $60 per barrel and Exchange Rate of N305/$1.
In passing the MTEF/FSP three weeks ago, the Senate also approved GDP growth rate of 3.0percent and inflation growth rate of 9.98percent.
Highlights of the 2019 budget as approved by the National Assembly include: capital expenditure N2.094 trillion, Recurrent Expenditure N4.055 trillion, Statutory Transfers N502 billion, Fiscal Deficit N1.908 trillion, Special Intervention N500 billion and Deficit to GDP 1.37percent.
Lawmakers also approved Debt Service of N2.254 trillion. Out of this figure, N1.7 trillion was earmarked for domestic debts, N433 billion for foreign debts as well as N110 billion for Sinking Fund.
Presenting his report, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Danjuma Goje attributed the increase in the budget to provision of severance benefits for outgoing lawmakers and legislative aides, induction/orientation and inauguration of lawmakers-elect in the Ninth Assembly, more provision for security agencies to deal with unforseen security challenges in the country as well as N10 intervention fund for victims of banditry in Zamafara State.
The budget report also revealed that lawmakers approved the sum of N23.7 billion as severance gratuity for outgoing legislators and allowances for incoming legislators and legislative aides.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on December 19, 2018 presented the budget to a joint session of the National Assembly.
Breakdown of the N2.094 trillion capital expenditure showed that Federal ministry of Power, Works and Housing has the highest allocation of N394 billion followed by the Ministry of Transportation which got N179 billion, Ministry of Defence N159 billion, Ministry of Agriculture N107 billion, Ministry of Water Resources N92 billion.
Others are: Ministry of Trade and Investment N63 billion, Ministry of Education N58 billion, Ministry of Health N57 billion, Ministry of Niger Delta N35 billion, Presidency N18 billion among others.
Speaking after the budget was approved in the Senate, Senate President Bukola Saraki who presided over the session, called on President Buhari to immediately give his assent to the bill.
Also addressing journalists after the appropriation bill was approved in the Senate, Goje explained that the budget also took care of the N30,000 New Minimum Wage recently signed into law by the President.
According to the budget details, the National Assembly approved the sum of N160 billion for that purpose.
The Chairman added that should the Executive require additional funding for payment of the new wage in 2019, it could approach the National Assembly by way of supplementary budget.
Goje pointed out that the severance gratuity, allowances for incoming federal lawmakers and induction programme and inauguration of the coming Assembly are paid once in every four years.
“When new members come, they will be settled, when old members go, they will be given severance allowance. And when they (new lawmakers) come, they will be settled in a hotel for three to four days before they are inaugurated. So these are the expenses that have to be incurred once in four years,” he said.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE & JAMES KWEN, Abuja