Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday explained while he delayed in signing the 2017 appropriation bill into law.
The National Assembly passed the N7.44 trillion budget on May 11, but Mr. Osinbajo only assented to it Monday, over a month after.
But speaking shortly before assenting to the law on Monday, the acting President said the delay was due to disagreements between the executive and the National Assembly on the changes made in the proposal.
According to him, the executive believed the changes fundamentally affected some of its priority programmes and would make implementation extremely difficult and in some cases impossible.
He said the leadership of the National Assembly however “adopted a commendably patriotic and statesmanlike approach on engagement in resolving these critical issues.’’
Mr. Osinbajo said the executive only agreed to sign the law after the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, made commitments to re-instate budgetary allocations for all important executive projects.
He listed the projects to include the railway standard gauge project, Mambilla power project, the second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway among others.
Mr. Osinbajo said it was agreed by the parties that the reinstatement would be through an application for virement by the executive which NASS would expeditiously consider.
“It is as a result of that understanding and the outcome of our detailed engagements that we are able to sign the 2017 appropriation bill into law,” the acting President said.
Mr. Osinbajo described the budget-signing event as “an important milestone’’ in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The budget christened; “Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth’’ has projected revenue of N5.08 trillion with deficit of N2.36 trillion.
A total of N2.98 trillion was earmarked for recurrent non-debt expenditure, while N2.17 trillion was earmarked for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure exclusive of capital expenditure in statutory transfers.
A total of N434.41 billion was earmarked for statutory transfers; N1.84 trillion for debt service and N177.46 billion for sinking fund for maturing bonds.
The acting president said the appropriation act was an important milestone in the administration’s economic recovery and growth plan.
He thanked the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives and the entire leadership of the National Assembly for completing the work on record time.
He said that the process of passing the 2017 appropriation bill in the National Assembly was smoother than that of 2016, as there were no allegations of errors or mistakes.
He added that there was improvement in the quality of interpretation and presentation.
Mr. Osinbajo also commended the Ministry of Budget and Planning on the “remarkable improvement over a single budget cycle.’’
He lauded the collaborative spirit between Ministries, Departments and Agencies and the various committees of the National Assembly and their leadership during the budget defence process.
He noted that there were few reported cases of acrimony or wrangling during the budget defence process.
He said reports indicated the sessions were done in a friendly atmosphere, an indication that the nation’s democracy was maturing well.
“I am also pleased to mention that in our discussion with the NASS we have jointly resolved to return to a predictable January to December fiscal year,” Mr. Osinbajo said.
“It is a particularly important development because this accords with the financial year of most private sector companies, underscoring the crucial relationship between government and the private sector,’’ he said.
Accordingly, the acting President said the 2018 budget will be submitted in October 2017 while the leadership of NASS has committed to work towards passing it before the end of the year.
The appropriation bill was submitted to the acting president on May 17, after it was passed by the National Assembly on May 11.