No allocation for fuel subsidy as Senate passes 2015 budget
THE Senate yesterday passed a N4.5 trillion budget for 2015 without making any provision for fuel subsidy. Of the N4,493,363,957,158 that was passed, N375,616,60 was designated as statutory transfer vote, N953,620,60 allocated for debt service, N2,607,132,491,708 as recurrent non-debt expenditure and N144,420,000,000 for capital expenditure.
Last week, the House of Representatives had passed the same figures for the 2015 Appropriation. The budget as passed yesterday by the Senate gave the education sector the highest recurrent allocation of N392,363,784,654, followed by defence with N338,797,219,431.
Others are Police Formation and Commands, which has a total recurrent allocation of N303,822,224,611 and the health sector which has N237,075,742,847 as recurrent allocation.
For capital expenditure, defence topped the table with N36,700,000,000, followed by the Office of the National Security Adviser, which got N26,499,999,999.
Passing the Bill into law, President of the Senate, David Mark, prayed that it would be implemented by whosoever would be responsible for implementation.
Some senators, especially those of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in their reactions, described it as the worst budget ever. Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Ekiti North) said the budget would pose a serious challenge to the incoming administration and that there is likelihood that it would be returned in the form of a supplementary budget in line with APC manifesto . According to him, the overhead must be trimmed down to come to terms with the reality on ground.
For Ayogu Eze (PDP Enugu), d however, all hopes are not lost. According to him, “the budget is not as gloomy as predicted, especially with the gradual rise in the price of crude oil in the international market.”
Chairman of the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance, Ahmad Maccido, stated that in preparing the details of the 2015 Appropriation Bill, the panel adopted a benchmark price of $53 per barrel of crude oil based on the recommendation of the Conference Committee on Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).
“The committee also adopted the executive proposal of crude oil production of 2.2782 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N190 to $1,” Maccido said. On his part, Senator Ahmad Lawan expressed regret that the budget was passed in the fourth month of the year against constitutional provisions.
“The constitutional provision is that we should have even passed the budget before now, but due to the exigencies of this period, we have just passed it and we have done our constitutional duty very well.”
President Goodluck Jonathan had in December 2014 transmitted a budget proposal of N4.4 trillion at the exchange rate of N165 to a dollar to the National Assembly through the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Shortly before the Senate embarked on Christmas holidays, it received from the executive the revised crude oil benchmark of $65 per barrel for consideration and approval.
The benchmark has been revised twice from $85 and $75 per barrel respectively. Although the wobbling crude oil price could be partially blamed for the delay in the passage of the budget, much of the legislative time was spent on partisan politics rather than governance.