There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari is still not ready to sign the 2016 budget into law even as he leaves for China today.
Presidency sources reveal that the president’s inaction on the budget is based on discovery that the document passed on to the executive by the National Assembly was badly mutilated, with key projects either removed, or allocation for them hugely slashed.
The alterations was said to have been discovered by the ministers after the executive had convened an emergency Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting to study details as passed onto it by the legislature, after much dilly-dallying over the document.
Some of the projects removed from the appropriation bill include the Calabar-Lagos coastal rail line project which had a provision of N60 billion in the 2016 estimates. Incidentally, the railway project is one of the key issues taking Buhari to China.
Although the Kano/Lagos railway project was untouched, the amount set aside for the completion of the Idu/Kaduna railway project, which has reached an advanced stage of completion was slashed by N8.7 billion.
A source at the presidency revealed that the lawmakers removed provisions that were made for completion of ongoing projects across the country in some cases, and reduced the amount provided for some others, and also went ahead to include budgets for new roads for which studies have not even been conducted.
The source said: “The amounts provided by the National Assembly for the projects can neither complete the on-going road projects nor the new ones proposed. At the end of the year, no progress would have been made”.
In one of such cases, allocations for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns like polio and AIDS for which the store is fast depleting, were removed and the amounts allocated to provision of ambulance, which the health ministry did not ask for.
“It was also observed that certain provisions made in the areas of agriculture and water resources to further the Federal Government’s diversification project were either removed or reduced while the funds were moved to provisions of rural health facilities and boreholes, for which provisions have been made elsewhere,” the source stated.
Another source however stated that while the president is away on a week-long visit to China, he plans to engage the National Assembly in talks with a view to resolving the issues.
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