Monday, 12 June 2017

Breaking: Osinbajo signs 2017 budget into law

Breaking: Osinbajo signs 2017 budget into law

…Confirms Vanguard’s exclusive report on Friday

Abuja: Barely a few hours after receiving the nod from President Muhammadu Buhari, the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has signed the 2017 appropriation bill into law.

Prof Osinbajo signed the budget at about 4:40 p.m. on Monday inside his conference room in the presence of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari; Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Ministers and other top government officials with the final figure of N 7.44 trillion presented by the National Assembly.

The acting president, who described the budget signing as a milestone in the implementation of the economic and growth plan programme put in place by Mr. Buhari in April, also noted that it had fewer errors than that of last year.

“There were far few cases of acrimony unlike in the past. There is no doubt at all that our democracy is maturing very well,” Osinbajo noted.

Earlier today, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has confirmed that his principal had asked Osinbajo to assent to the budget.

Shehu, in a statement in Abuja, said that the president conveyed his position to Prof. Osinbajo in a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed.

The statement reads, “Following the receipt of a full brief on the 2017 Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly, and to buttress the unity at the highest level of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that it is in the interest of the nation’s economy for the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to sign the Appropriation Bill into law.

“In a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed and addressed to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the President also said he was ‘pleased by the joint resolution that the Executive would submit next year’s budget proposals by October 2017 and the National Assembly will conclude the Appropriation process by December 2017, so that the country can return to a normal fiscal period from next year onwards.’”

The development confirms Vanguard exclusive story on Friday, in which the paper reported that all the issues that led to the delay in signing the budget by the Presidency had been resolved between it and the National Assembly.

The report said, “After three days of stormy deliberations over the belated 2017 budget, the Presidency and the National Assembly have resolved all the grey areas that prevented the President from assenting to the appropriation bill passed into law by the legislature last month.”

The paper quoted a top presidency source, who confirmed that the major areas of disagreement had been resolved by the two sides, paving the way for the President to assent to the bill.

“As a result of the deal struck by both parties, there were indications that the President would assent to the bill before the end of this week, although the presidential source simply said, ‘we will sign it soon’, declining to specify the date and time.

The meetings by the Presidency and the leadership of the NASS took place on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday last week before the areas of conflict were resolved, according to competent sources close to the deal.

Vanguard learnt that as part of the understanding between the two sides, the lawmakers would not insist on the full implementation of the ‘over 400 strange projects’ which the lawmakers brought into the budget and would also not accuse the Executive of not complying with the implementation of the law.

“It is true that all the contentious issues that delayed the President’s assent had been resolved. Hopefully, it the president will assent to the budget soon,” the official confirmed to Vanguard on Thursday night.

It was learnt that the lawmakers had also accepted that money taken away from major infrastructure projects by the lawmakers and added to other obscure projects, be returned to those projects as outlined by President Muhammadu Buhari in the budget sent to the NASS even though the president would sign the bill as transmitted to him by the NASS.

The Presidency had frowned at the insertion of strange projects mostly roads, health centres, recreational centres, water and electricity schemes which are under state and local governments that were never evaluated, designed or included in the federal government.

The executive was also upset that while NASS slashed the votes for other vital projects and MDAS, it jerked its own votes from N115 billion to N125 billion even with the hard times.

Beyond that NASS also increased the budget by N143 billion without explaining where the additional cash would be derived from, a development that made the executive to distance itself from the fiscal document, contending that the ‘distortions’ would adversely affect the implementation of the budget.

It will be recalled that the Executive proposed a budget of N7.3 trillion in December 2016 but the NASS jerked it to N7.44 trillion.

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