The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Umar El-Yakub, has explained the factors that led to an increase in the amended 2020 budget.
El-Yakub, while speaking with State House reporters after the signing of the amended budget at the weekend, said some money had been realized while others were projected to be raised to finance prioritised matters under the Appropriation Act.
He said the budget was increased to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians and execute prioritised infrastructure projects.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Friday signed into law the revised N10.81 trillion budget for the year 2020 passed by the National Assembly in June.
President Buhari, while speaking on the Appropriation (Repeal and Amendment) Act, 2020, signed into law, said it represented an increase of N216 billion over the level of expenditure initially proposed in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
President Buhari had in December 2019 assented to N10.59tn 2020 budget.
The National Assembly had passed the budget at $57 per barrel oil benchmark price.
However, the federal government had to review the budget because of the current drop in the price of crude oil due to the coronavirus pandemic.
El-Yakub, while speaking on the increase in the amended budget, said: “Some parameters were looked at. In any event, the 2020 budget was benchmarked at $25 per barrel of crude oil, while the new amended budget is at $28 per barrel. So, because of that, you can see there is a bit of an increase in revenue. The initial benchmark was at 53. There has been a leap recently in the price of oil and even though the production benchmark was reduced from 1.9 million barrels to 1.8 million barrels per day.
“But certainly, the increment in projections as far as the cost of oil is concerned, some monies were realized and projected to be realized. In addition to that, one needs to understand the whole essence of the review is to prioritize government projects to the extent that projects that will certainly address infrastructure and ginger the economy more as well as address health issues and concerns because of the pandemic.
“Investments are made in those regards and certainly you know that there are palliatives that have been initiated by the federal government in the phases of implementation.
“All those necessitated this new look at the budget so as to free certain amounts of money hitherto appropriated for certain projects which in the circumstances are not as expedient to prioritize. We looked at other infrastructure that need prioritization so as to address the pandemic and the difficulties that it has brought to the lives of Nigerians. So, to address those issues, that was why the budget was looked at and amended.”
The presidential aide, who attributed the secret of the new relationship between the National Assembly and the executive arm of government under President Buhari to the commitment to serve the Nigerian people, said it’s a relationship that is based on mutual understanding, respect and partnership for nation-building.
He dismissed the allegation that the National Assembly was a mere rubber-stamp to the executive, saying the issue of the passage of the budget looked seamless because the lawmakers were engaged in the initial process in terms of their considerations of government initiatives.
“This is something that hasn’t been going on with other assemblies. Perhaps, that is why Nigerians thought they are just approving, passing bills or screening nominees. But the reality is that they are carried along in the whole process,” El-Yakub added.