There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari will return the 2016 Budget to the National Assembly to rework owing to its falling below expectations.
Consequently, the president will not assent the Appropriation Bill – which was sent to him on Thursday by lawmakers – into law, as earlier planned, before leaving the country to China.
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Sources close to the polity, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, confirmed that the President was disappointed that provisions for major national projects and programmes that could turn around the economy were either outrightly removed or funds for them ridiculously slashed by the lawmakers.
It will be recalled on Thursday, the Presidency had convened an emergency Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Friday for Ministers to review the budget passed for their respective ministries, departments and agencies.
During the review meeting presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who doubles as the Head of the Economic Team, it was discovered that some key projects were either removed or provisions made for them significantly slashed.
These include key projects like the Calabar-Lagos coastal rail line for which Buhari made a provision of N60 billion.
While the Kano-Lagos railway project was untouched, the amount set aside for the completion of the Idu/Kaduna railway project, was slashed by N8.7 billion.
Speaking on the breakdown of discoveries that shocked Buhari, a top government official, said:
“At the meeting, it was noticed that some very key aspects of the budget, which have to do with government’s core infrastructural focus, were removed. One of the projects is the subject of the President’s trip to China – the Lagos/ Calabar coastal railway project – for which a counterpart funding of N60bn was provided, but which was completely removed by the National Assembly.
“The executive is working on two major rail arteries, among other rail projects, to service the northern and eastern parts of the country – the Lagos/Kano line and the Calabar/Lagos line.
While the Lagos-Kano provision was left untouched, the Calabar/ Lagos line was removed. The projects are to be funded jointly by governments of China and Nigeria. It is one of the main reasons for the President’s scheduled trip to China.
“Also, the amount proposed for the completion of the Idu/Kaduna rail project which has reached an advanced stage, was reduced by N8.7bn, a development which will make it difficult for the project to be completed”.
“Allocations for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns like polio and AIDS, which is fast depleting, were removed and same 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 President is desirous of signing the Bill into law so that implementation of the provisions could begin in earnest for the benefit of the people. That is why the moment he received the document on Thursday, a meeting was convened for Friday to immediately start work on it.”