In October, when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2020 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the Upper and Lower Houses of the National Assembly, his proposal was an aggregate of ₦10.3 trillion.
However, when he signed the bill into law in December, after the National Assembly’s perusal, the new aggregate was about ₦10.6 trillion, a difference of about ₦264 billion.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Ibrahim Barau, who first made this known, said that the increase is targeted at offsetting the infrastructural deficit in the country.
Nonetheless, an analysis of the addition has shown that the Federal Capital Territory Authority, FCTA, is the most favoured institution in the increments across Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs.
Buhari initially budgeted ₦28.4 billion for the FCTA, but upon passage, its new capital expenditure was increased to ₦62.41 billion.
In spite of the infrastructural rot bedeviling the capital city of Abuja, renovation of the National Assembly complex would chalk off ₦37 billion from this.
Thus, for the coming year, renovation of the Legislature building would gulp more funds than the entire stretch of the Federal Roads in the country would get.
Next to the FCTA is the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC. Its capital allocation which falls under the category of statutory transfers, got a raise of about ₦21.6 billion, up from ₦4.6 billion to ₦26.2 billion.
The increment is billed to cater for a flurry of vague projects inserted by the Federal Lawmakers.
These include the “supply of instructional materials to various schools in the North-East”, priced at ₦500 million, same as the “supply of laptops and writing materials to schools in Borno State”.
In terms ratio of increase, the Presidency’s Office of the Senior Special Assistant on MDGS, OSSAP-MDGS, took the lead.
The capital expenditure of the Office which was initially ₦34 million, is now ₦5.1 billion.
What the over ₦5 billion increment is for, among others, include “supply of goods, fertilisers, rice, maize, and beans in Katsina”, and the “supply of tricycles, motorcycles, sewing machines”, each of which will cost ₦500 million; as well as the “supply of new Toyota Hiace buses, utility vehicles SDG intervention”, which would gulp ₦1.9 billion.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, in its recent report categorised projects of these nature as Capacity Building and Empowerment programmes, as they are called “free money without accountability, aside from being difficult to track”.
Like last year, over 391 projects were smuggled by Federal Lawmakers into the budgets of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, and Border Communities Development Agency, BCDA; this year too, over 300 projects found their way into the two Agencies’ budgets.
The said ICPC report singled out these two Agencies as “conduits for embezzling funds”, because of the size, type, and number of projects domiciled under them.
This is notwithstanding the fact that some projects in both Agencies are overpriced.
When the Federal Lawmakers while exercising their power over the budget document last year, altered the initial proposal by adding over ₦500 billion and 6,000 new projects, the President was unimpressed and reacted quickly, but not so this time around.
That was a time when the relationship between the Legislature and the Executive was at an impasse. Then, the President chided the Legislators for hijacking the Executive’s role of proposing projects.
Buhari, who is now serving his second and final term in Office, said then, that the funds for some necessary projects have been cut, and some unnecessary ones got a raise.
“The National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration, and introduced 6,403 projects of their own, amounting to N578 billion.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible to implement, with the reduced allocation. Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualised, designed and costed, and will therefore be difficult to execute.
“Furthermore, many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most MDAs, with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them, or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required”, a displeased Buhari had said.
With the relationship between the two arms of government now ‘cordial’, the President simply heaped praises on the National Assembly, for passing the budget in record time.
This is in spite of obvious concerns according to an analysis of the 2019 budget, for which the Legislators were reproached.
“It is my pleasant duty, today, on my 77th birthday, to sign the 2020 Appropriation Bill into law.
“I am pleased that the National Assembly has expeditiously passed this Bill. Our Federal Budget is now restored to a January-December implementation cycle”, pleased this time around, Buhari wrote on his Twitter page.