Nigeria’s 2013 budget still not available to public

President Goodluck Jonathan signing a deal

The Budget Office and Ministry of Finance are yet to publish the signed budget.

Three weeks after President Goodluck Jonathan signed the controversial 2013 Appropriation Bill into law, the budget is yet to be made available to Nigerians.

The budget was passed by the National Assembly last December, but the president withheld his assent over controversial inclusions and amendments made by lawmakers. He eventually signed the budget late February with Federal Government officials saying the executive had reconciled some disputed figures with lawmakers.

The reconciled figures are, however, still a close guarded secret by top officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance and other government agencies responsible for the budgeting processes in the country.

The document is yet to be published on either the websites of the Federal Ministry of Finance or that of the Budget Office of the Federation.

Officials of both agencies would not comment on why Nigerians still can’t have access to the official budget three months into the year.

The Senior Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance on Media, Paul Nwabuikwu, did not answer calls to his phone on Monday to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ inquiries on the issue.

Also, the Director General of the Budget Office, Bright Okogwu, who, prior to the president’s assent to the Bill, promised that the reconciled figures would be released officially immediately after the reconciliations have been effected, said he was in a meeting and would not be able to speak when our reporter called.

A source in the Finance Ministry who offered an explanation, however, said the delay to release the approved budget might not be unconnected to the unresolved issues between the National Assembly and the Budget Office.

The source, who did not want to be quoted as he was not authorised to speak, said both arms of government had not fully resolved the contentious issues despite public statements to the contrary.

Signs of unresolved crisis

The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation and Finance, last Friday, asked Mr. Okogwu to appear before it to explain the content of the letter he allegedly wrote to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs to ignore the implementation of the budget pending the amended version of the 2013 Appropriation Act.

The legislators said they were not happy that it appeared the executive had already asked MDAs to begin to work on proposed amendments to the Act even before the amendments were brought to the National Assembly for approval.

The Minority Whip of the House, Samson Osagie, said members would ensure that “no amendment would be implemented by the MDAs, other than what was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President.”

But, the Director of Administration in the Budget Office, Francis Ojiah, on Friday denied the allegation, describing it as “absolutely untrue”; saying at no time since the passage of the 2013 budget and subsequent assent by the president did the office issue such a directive.

According to Mr. Ojiah, following the passage of the budget, aspects of the Act still required adjustment, including personnel cost, overhead votes and critical capital projects. He said all amendments to the signed Appropriation Act would be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.

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