President Signs Budget As N’Assembly Raises Lawmakers Allocation To N344bn

President Signs Budget As N’Assembly Raises Lawmakers Allocation To N344bn
President Bola Tinubu

The National Assembly has raised its 2024 budgetary allocation by 74.23 per cent to N344.85bn.

This will be the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly whose initial allocation in the 2024 budget proposal was pegged at N197.93bn.

The increase in allocation to the Senate and House of Representatives is happening amidst a cost-of-living crisis in the country, with the government telling citizens at various for a that the country is facing tough times.

In the recently passed and now signed 2024 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly increased the budget by N1.2tn to N28.77tn from the earlier proposed N27.5tn by the Executive.

The parliament raised statutory transfers (i.e., funding to the National Judicial Council, Niger-Delta Development Commission, Universal Basic Education Commission, National Assembly, Public Complaints Commission, Independent National Electoral Commission, National Human Rights Commission, North-East Development Commission, Basic Health Care Provision Fund, and National Agency for Science And Engineering Infrastructure) from N1.38tn to N1.74tn.

This is according to data from a document titled, ‘House of Representatives Federal Republic of Nigeria Order Paper,’ dated Saturday, December 30th, 2023.

The document revealed the following changes in statutory allocations:  National Judicial Council N341.63bn (formerly N165bn), Niger-Delta Development Commission N338.93bn (formerly N324.85bn), Universal Basic Education Commission N263.04bn (formerly N251.47bn), National Assembly N344.85bn (formerly N197.93bn), Public Complaints Commission N14.46bn (formerly N13.69bn), Independent National Electoral Commission N40bn (formerly N40bn) National Human Rights Commission N5bn (formerly N5bn), North East Development Commission N131.84bn (formerly N126.94bn), Basic Healthcare Provision Fund N131.52bn (formerly N125.74bn), and National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure N131.52bn  (formerly N125.74bn).

Unlike before when the National Assembly did not give a breakdown of its budget, the new document gave details of the budget.

The budget details of the country’s law-making arms include the National Assembly Office (N36.73bn), Senate (N49.15bn), House of Representatives (N78.63bn), National Assembly Service Commission (N12.33bn), Legislatives Aides (N20.39bn), PAC – Senate (N130m), PAC – House of Representatives (N150m), General Services (N30.81bn).

National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (N9.01bn), Service-Wide-Vote (N15.19bn), Office of Retired Clerks and Perm. Secretaries (N1.23bn), Appropriation Committee Department – Senate (N200m), Appropriation Committee Department – House (N200m), NASS Library Complex (Take-Off Grant) (N12.12bn), Procurement of Books for the NASS Library (N3bn), NASS Liabilities (N9.90bn), Constitution Review (N1bn), Completion of NILDS HQ (N4.5bn), Construction of NASC building (Ongoing) (N10bn).

Alternative Power Supply (Solar Power System) (N4bn), NASS Zonal Liaison Offices (N3bn), NASS Pension Board (Take-Off Grant) (N2.5bn), NASS Car Park Project – Senate (N3bn), NASS Car Park Project – House of Representatives (N3bn), NASS Hospital Project (N15bn), NASS Recreation Centre (N4bn), Furnishing of Committee Meeting Rooms & other Offices within the Senate Building (N2.7bn).

Furnishing of Committee Meeting Rooms for House Representatives Building Part I & II (N3bn), Upgrade of NASS Key Infrastructures (N3bn) Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of NASS Ultramodern Printing Press (N3bn), Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) (N4bn).

The new legislative budget is more than what NASS got between 2011 to 2014. A recent The PUNCH report revealed that the country would have spent over N1.79tn on the National Assembly in 13 years by the end of 2023.

The breakdown of the budgets was as follows, 2011 to 2014, N150bn; 2015, N115bn; 2016, N125bn; 2017, N125; 2018, N139.5bn; 2019, 125bn; 2020, N128bn; 2021, N134bn; 2022, N139bn; and N169bn proposed for 2023.

The consistent rise in the cost of funding of the arms of government and agencies is despite a declining macroeconomic environment and reduced government revenues.

While presenting the details of the 2024 budget recently, the Minister of Finance and Budget Planning, Abubakar Bagudu, disclosed that the government was bothered about its declining revenues.

He said, “Revenue generation remains the major fiscal constraint to Nigeria’s fiscal viability. However, the government is reviewing current tax and fiscal policies with a view to improving revenue generation. The target is to increase the ratio of revenue to GDP from less than 10 per cent currently to 18 per cent within the current term of this administration.”

Meanwhile, justifying the increase in the budget, the Chairman, Appropriation Committee of the Senate, Adeola Solomon, stated that the 2024 budget was increased based on economic realities.

He said, “The government has just removed the fuel subsidy, the government has also just intensified effort to unify the exchange rate differences that we usually have and that comes with a lot of price and Nigerians are paying dearly for it in terms of price of fuel and dollar rate.

“When we got the budget document, the president implored us to interrogate and investigate it and make sure we come up with a document that is all-encompassing and can suit the needs and yearning of Nigerians.”

He noted that the increase was largely due to exchange rate differences.

According to him, the current price of the dollar at the black market is between N1200 and N1300, while it is between N950 and N1000 at the official market. He stated that the former budget which was pegged at N750 had a large gap which the legislators have now closed.

Solomon declared, “Again, we did some external consultations, most especially in the area of oil benchmark and petroleum resources, if we had gone in that line, we’d have pegged it at N850/N900 to a dollar but we agreed that  we want to be conservative in our approach, so that nobody will think that we want to increase the budget for any ulterior motive, that was why we left it at N490bn out of which N44bn is for statutory transfer, so effectively, the increment is about N446bn that is going into the Federal Government pocket as consolidated revenue.”

According to the order paper, exchange rate differentials are currently pegged at N490bn. This new move by the House is opposed to what the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, recently stated in an interview with Channels TV.

Defending the former N750/$ peg of the budget, the DG stated that the government was betting on the success of its policies.

He said, “The N750/$ exchange rate in the 2024 budget is possible. We may begin the year with a little higher amount but if all that the Central Bank of Nigeria says it would do is put in place, as well as other things, we should expect to see a significant increase in the supply of foreign exchange in the economy in 2024.

“If the supply increases, the naira will strengthen. Our focus is on what we can do to stimulate the flow of foreign exchange into the economy.”

Efforts to get comments from the National Assembly on its latest move proved abortive as our correspondents were unable to reach both the chairmen of Appropriation Committee and the spokespersons of both the red and green chambers.

Calls and messages, including on WhatsApp and regular texts, were directed to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Yemi Adaramodu. However, as of press time, he had not responded to the messages or answered his calls.

Attempts to contact Senator Adeola Solomon, Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriations, was not successful as he did not answer his calls or respond to messages.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Abubakar Bichi, did not also respond to calls as of press time.

However, when our correspondent reached out to the House of Representatives spokesperson, Rotimi Akin, he requested that the questions be sent to him on WhatsApp. He had not responded to the message as of press time.

Tinubu signs budget

President Bola Tinubu on Monday signed the 2024 Appropriation Bill into law and promised to ease out any Minister or head of government agency who fails to play their part in its full implementation.

Tinubu signed the N28.7tn budget document earlier approved by the Senate minutes after he arrived in Abuja from Lagos where he observed the Christmas holidays. The President, who called for higher accountability, also directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to provide monthly performance reports in line with his government’s eight priority areas.

The priority areas include defence and internal security, job creation, macroeconomic stability, improved investment environment, human capital development, poverty reduction, and social security.

He assured Nigerians that the budget’s implementation would be efficiently pursued and vigorously monitored, saying, “All the institutional mechanisms shall be held to account in ensuring diligent implementation.”

He further stated, “I cannot conclude my remark without saying that a budget is only as good at its implementation. We will implement this!

“I want to assure Nigerians that All MDAs have been warned and directed to take responsibility and provide monthly Budget Performance Reports to the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, which in turn shall ensure the veracity of such.

“The Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy shall hold regular reviews with the Economic Management Team and, in addition, I shall Chair periodic Economic Coordination Council meetings.”

The President also emphasised his commitment to enhancing investment promotion while creating a rules-based society that favours no individual over the law begins with important reforms in the Nigerian judiciary, the funding for which is captured in the 2024 Appropriation Act.

“Funding the judiciary is a major element in our effort to support a just, rules-based society. Statutory transfer to the Judiciary has been increased from N165bn to N342bn,” he stated.

Also, the president signed the N2.2tn supplementary budget into law. This will now run alongside the 2024 budget until March 31, 2024.

He also securitised the Ways and Means, a credit facility financed by Nigeria’s Central Bank. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, revealed these when he addressed State House Correspondents at the Aso Rock Villa shortly after Tinubu signed the 2024 budget into law.

Abbas explained, “Mr President has signed two other bills. The first one is the supplementary appropriation bill of 2023, which he has agreed to extend by 90 days. So, it will continue to work concurrently with the 2024 budget up to March 31.

“He has also approved the 2023 main budget to concurrently operate with the capital component of the 2024 budget up to March 31, 2024.

“Another landmark achievement we had was also approving the securitisation of the ways and means that have effectively brought to an end these controversial means and ways of borrowing money. And he has assured Nigerians that this will be the last of this kind of ugly incident.”

Also speaking on the matter, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, said the administration is ready to phase out Ways and Means.

He said, “We are all ready, even from tomorrow, applying technology to ensure that the revenue that should come to government from all sources, including from government-owned enterprises, comes into the consolidated revenue fund and on the other side, we are bringing order to government borrowing.

“So, Ways and Means is being eliminated by taking the funding that is required from the market, as opposed to the printing of money by Central Bank.”

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