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Buhari presents N6tr budget to NASS on Tuesday

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• Lawmakers say 11, 886 abandoned projects to cost N7.78tr

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari is expected to present the 2016 budget proposal to the National Assembly next Tuesday. At an executive session that lasted over an hour before the commencement of actual sitting, senators debated the matter and resolved that it would be ready to receive the president only next Tuesday.

Accordingly, the Senate decided to defer its Christmas and New Year holidays which had earlier been scheduled to commence tomorrow.

Besides, following accusations from a rights group that it was allegedly planning to divert N15 billion meant for contractors that executed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) projects, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) says no money was misused .

Meanwhile, the Senate has urged the Federal Government to set up a Project Performance and Monitoring Task Force to severely punish contractors who collect mobilisation funds and abandon projects.This followed a motion by Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC-Bauchi North) over the negative impact of abandoned projects on the development of the country. He noted that there were 11, 886 abandoned projects that would cost an estimated N7.78 trillion to complete.

A source at the National Assembly, however, told The Guardian that most senators had preferred the budget session to be fixed for Friday to allow them travel. He said that the choice of Tuesday was arrived at after considering the fact that Friday was too short a day, being a half-working day to conduct such an assignment. The decision would also allow the Senate to conclude work on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).The Federal Executive Council (FEC) at an emergency meeting last week approved the MTEF in preparation for the presentation of the 2016 budget.

The meeting, which was presided over by Buhari, proposed an all-time high expenditure of N6 trillion for the 2016 budget. It also pegged the crude oil price benchmark at an all-time low of $38 per barrel.

The N6 trillion expenditure profile is the highest in the history of the country. It was N4.07 trillion in 2010, N4.22 trillion in 2011; N4.74 trillion in 2012, N4.92 trillion in 2013, N4.6 trillion in 2014 and N5.06 trillion in the current year (including the N574.5 billion approved as supplementary budget).

On the other hand, the crude oil benchmark, at $38 per barrel, is the lowest price used in recent times. It was $62 per barrel in 2011, $67 in 2012, $79 in 2013, $76 in 2014 and $53 per barrel in the current year.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, had explained that the Federal Government pegged the crude oil benchmark at $38 because it considered it to be very conservative because of the uncertainty in crude oil price.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary session, charged all standing committees of the Senate to take their oversight functions seriously.

He said that the increasing rate of abandoned projects in the country was an indictment of the National Assembly for poor oversight.
“I think we have shied away from some of the main reasons we were elected here . The motion is a partial indictment of us because Section 88 of the Constitution states clearly that it is our responsibility to oversight projects so that they are not abandoned.

We should ensure that our committees carry out proper oversight and the leaders should ensure that we do our job. Even the current investigation going on in the National Security Adviser’s office, whether we like it or not also brings the oversight function of the National Assembly to question,” he said.


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