The N9.1 trillion 2018 budget may have finally been passed by the Nigerian Senate, but in the time when it was shrouded in intrigues, subterfuge and personality war between the executive and the senate, four big-ticket projects close to the heart of the Buhari presidency, and designed for the benefit of millions of Nigerians, suffered.
The four big-ticket election poster projects that business a.m. learnt the Presidency was keen to see move quickly are the popular Lagos – Ibadan expressway project. The road is a major gateway and access corridor between
the rest of the country and the seaports located in the commercial city of Lagos. Others include the long outstanding second Niger Bridge on the River Niger between Asaba in Delta State and Onitsha, in Anambra State, which is also a gateway to eastern Nigeria; Kano-Kaduna rail project; and the Mambilla hydropower project.
The four projects, along with a few others, suffered from lack of funds and so progress on them became slow. business a.m. has learnt from sources close to the Presidency and the National Assembly that the intrigues that played out with the 2018budget actually began with the 2017 budget.
It led to a reneging by the leadership of the Senate on two agreement that arose from the way the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill had been handled. The situation was made worse by the fact that the 2018 budget passage was seen as the biggest negotiation instrument in the lead up to the next elections. But back in 2017 during the passage of that year’s budget, the delay had gravely affected project execution plans.
The projects suffered delays as a result of non-release of funds owing to the delay in passing the budget.
The 2017 budget was submitted to the National Assembly on December 14, 2016, but it was not passed until May 11, 2017, and signed into law in June. The delay affected the execution of capital projects including the allocations made for the four big-ticket projects. Ahead of the 2018 budget and to forestall delay in the passage, it was prepared well ahead of time and submitted in October, 2017, three months before the end of the year.
The Presidency expected that worst case scenario, it would be passed in January.
business a.m. learnt that because of the problems that arose from the 2017 budget passage delay, and giving that the implementation of capital budgets only begins after they are passed, the Presidency entered into negotiations with the leadership of the National Assembly to have substantial parts of the 2017 budget rolled into 2018. The negotiations had also become necessary after vice president
Yemi Osinbajo refused to sign the 2017 budget when he noticed that the budget that came back from the
NASS had been altered and so did not align with governments’ 3-year expenditure framework. A compromise was reached where the budget would be signed and items that had been removed would be brought in through a virement. And the government had gone ahead rolling many 2017 capital budget into 2018 believing that it would be passed by December 2017,
and latest January 2018.
However, once the budget was signed, the leadership began to renege on the agreement. The virement that would have made it possible to have the money released to continue prosecuting the four big ticket projects was conveniently cast aside.
business a.m. learnt that although the ruling party has a majority of members in the NASS, the party is really divided along many personal ambition lines. One source described Bukola
Saraki, the Senate president, who appears to lead a faction, as very powerful and aggressive, with a steely determination in pursuit of his ambition, which is yet not clear.
While the budget was used as a testing ground for a show of strength, and to test loyalty, with the situation also described as one of tit for tat that has pitched Saraki and his group of supporters, on one side, and the Presidency and its sympathizers, on the other side. In all this, the target remains 2019 and the stakes, many say, are very high.
Frontpage February 16, 2019