Senate passes govt’s expenditure plan for three years
• Upper chamber retains $38 per barrel oil benchmark
• Buhari seeks NASS’ nod to present budget Tuesday
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s Medium Term and Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for 2016, 2017 and 2018 which he submitted to the National Assembly last week got the approval of the Senate yesterday.
Also yesterday, Buhari wrote the National Assembly leadership informing it of his preparedness to present the 2016 budget before the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, December 21.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government may have expanded its drive towards ensuring accelerated diversification of the nation’s economy, especially in the face of dwindling oil-based revenue, as the country plays host to a delegation from Corporate Council of Africa (CCA).
In approving the MTEF, the Senate endorsed the $38 per barrel oil benchmark as proposed by the Executive and also the exchange rate of N197 to $1.
The approval of the benchmark by the Senate as proposed has created doubts regarding the practicability of the budget in view of the further slump of the global price of crude oil to $36 per barrel on Monday from the $40 per barrel rate when the document was approved.
The Senate also approved the projection of 2.2000 daily oil production volume in 2016 and N5.720 billion non-oil revenue projection for 2016. The approval was sequel to the report of the Joint Senate Committee on Finance and National Planning presented by its Chairman, Senator John Eno.
In its recommendations, the upper chamber advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to initiate measures meant to close the gap between the parallel market and the official exchange rate as well as advised the Federal Government to sustain the current tempo towards increasing independent revenue and diversification of the economy. It added that the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) with e-collection platform should be sustained.
It implored the Federal Government to establish a data base and simultaneously consider creating a single salary account for all its employees with a view to streamlining and reducing personnel cost and that relevant committees of the National Assembly should closely and constantly oversight the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for implementing special intervention programmes to ensure that the targeted populace benefits and in order to avoid abuse.
The Senate also wants the diversification of the economy to be accompanied with economic modernisation such that the economy could be more competitive and productive; arrears of 2015 fuel subsidy for domestic consumption as proposed in the MTEF be sustained; and the finding of the infrastructural development stated in the MTEF should be clearly captured in the details of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
In her contribution, Senator Abiodun Olujinmi (Ekiti South) noted that whereas the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to equate the value of naira to that of the dollar when it was campaigning for election, it had now helplessly proposed N197 to a dollar exchange rate.
But the Chief Whip, Senator Sola Adeyeye, differed, saying the aftermath of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 16 years rule was the reason for the economic downturn.
During an interaction with the delegation in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, urged the CCA to scale up its investment promotions to facilitate more investments in the country by member-companies, at a time the government was working hard to develop other sectors of the economy.
“Your coming is very timely because as you know this new
administration is determined to wean Nigeria from the addiction to oil. Fortunately we have already made up our mind that we are going to cure ourselves of the addiction to oil even before the price of crude oil crashed to $38 per barrel,’’ Mohammed said on Tuesday.
He continued: “We have always been very convinced that any country that relies on a mono-product is leading herself to the vicissitudes of any volatility in that particular industry. There is no better time to partner us than now when we are looking to new ways of diversification of the economy especially in agriculture, which is an area where the United States has achieved tremendous success, solid minerals, the arts, culture and tourism,’’ he said.
Urging the CCA, which promotes business and investment between the United States and the African countries, to partner the Ministry of Information and Culture in the area of culture and tourism,
Mohammed restated plans to develop the creative industry, especially in the area of arts and craft, as a deliberate strategy, to empower the people, particularly women and the youth.
On his part, the leader of the CCA delegation, Mr. Ekenem Isichei, stressed the organisation’s commitment to improving trade relations between the United States and Nigeria.
According to him, because trade policies and investment require a lot of communication, the CCA would like to partner the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture so as to communicate the right messages about Nigeria.