As Nigerians joined the rest of the world to usher in the new year, activities in different sectors including the political scene, slowed down – save for the budget signing by President Muhammadu Buhari and a few other acts for the new year.
The signing of the 2021 Appropriation Bill into law by the president was one of the most talked-about events in the past week.
The act which took place on December 31, witnessed Mr Buhari sign N13.58 trillion for the nation for the 2021 fiscal year. The budget was signed about ten days after both chambers of the National Assembly passed it and three days after it was transmitted to the president for assent.
The lawmakers added N505 billion to the proposed budget of N13.08 trillion.
A breakdown of the approved budget figures shows about N496.5 billion approved for statutory transfers and N3.3 trillion for debt services. The recurrent expenditure was put at N5.6 trillion with capital expenditure at N4.1 trillion and fiscal deficit at N5.2 trillion (5,196,007,992,292).
PREMIUM TIMES reported how he signed the bill ignoring the N505 billion added by the National Assembly and N6 billion added to the lawmakers’ budget. Instead, he hailed his administration for achieving an ‘impressive’ 97.7 per cent overall performance of the 2020 budget.
The following day, the president in his New Year speech, addressed Nigerians – recounting his administration’s achievements of the previous year and making promises as well as assurances for 2021.
Top among his boasts is the nation’s economic diversification which he said has improved food security.
He also said economic diversification agenda embarked upon by his administration supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency and it helped “during the long months of the pandemic lockdown.”
In his speech, the president also made reference to last year’s #EndSARS protest which rocked the country for weeks. Mr Buhari described the protests as ‘understandable’ and vowed to ensure that the demands of protesters are met.
While he hoped that 2021 will be productive, the president said his administration needs to strengthen the security of the nation to avoid the repeat of the December 11 abduction of schoolboys in Katsina State in any part of Nigeria.
This is as he pledged to re-energise and reorganise “the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police with a view to enhance their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in some parts of the country.”
The president also said his administration is adopting new strategies to deal with Nigeria’s security challenges which “has a direct effect on the country’s economic growth.”
In other news…
Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, within the week, kicked against insinuations that the country was moving closer to a failed state. This was in response to commentators who have made reference to the worsening security situation and the negative economic situation, with Nigeria experiencing its worst recession, as signs the country was failing.
The APC in a statement disagreed saying president Buhari’s government is not oblivious to the country’s challenges and is visibly and frontally addressing them.”
“While naysayers and opposition partisans chorus their doomsday wishes for Nigeria, our dear country is nowhere close to becoming a failed state. From the economy to security, it is easy to sum up Nigeria with some recent recorded security incidents and the economic downturn. However, this government has displayed the political will and capacity to contain any criminal/terrorist activity and return the economy to growth,” the ruling party said.
In a different message, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his new year message, urged leaders of the country to desist from blaming God for the woes of the nation.
He said with responsible leaders, no Nigerian should go to bed hungry.
“When we do the right thing, the economy will be what it should be. I like the motto of a school which says ‘work and pray.’ Some people say it should be ‘pray and work’, but it doesn’t matter to me in what order I put it, but prayer must go with work and work must go with prayer.”
Meanwhile, President Buhari, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and many other political leaders mourned a professor of criminology and member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Femi Odekunle, who died last week.
The leaders described the late Mr Odekunle as a valued friend and a towering intellectual giant with impeccable knowledge of his chosen academic field, criminology, and in such others as governance and administration.
The legislation, officially called the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020, sets out the trade rules between Britain and the bloc from January 1. It comes days after elected lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 521 to 73 in support of the deal.
It then received an unopposed third reading in the House of Lords after nearly eight hours of debate.
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