The presidency on Saturday broke the silence on why the record 7.44 trillion naira ($24.45 billion) budget for 2017 has not been assented to.
Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo was expected to sign the document on Thursday with reports saying he had invited both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to the ceremony.
However, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang said the Presidency is working within the constitutional time-frame required to process details of the 2017 budget passed by the National Assembly.
It is understood, based on reports on ground, that the Presidency may reject the fiscal document over the increase made in the figures by the National Assembly.
The lawmakers had increased their budget from N115bn proposed by President Buhari to N125bn. They also raised the entire budget size from N7.298 trillion to N7.441 trillion, making an increase of N143 billion.
The lawmakers further jerked up the proposed oil benchmark from $42.5 per barrel to $44.5 per barrel.
But yesterday, Enang said, “there is no such plan by the Presidency to reject the 2017 budget passed by the National Assembly as alleged in some reports. The Presidency can only assent to the budget or withhold assent as the case maybe.
“However, should there be areas needing input, the Presidency would engage the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives. As such, any report suggesting a rejection of the 2017 budget by the Presidency is incorrect”.
He said right now, the Presidency is subjecting every detail of the budget using the available systems at its disposal to ensure the figures appropriated to MDAs are consistent with the realities on ground, while also engaging in consultations.
“When the budget was presented to both chambers of the National Assembly for consideration last year by President Muhammadu Buhari, both chambers subjected the document to legislative processes using internal systems at their disposal.
“That is exactly what the Presidency is doing at the moment to ensure that what is eventually assented to sufficiently addresses the nation’s present realities, as not doing so could expose government to a backlash from Nigerians,” he said.
In December 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari had tabled a N7.298trillion budget to the Assembly, but the lawmakers jacked the final figure to NN7.44 trillion.
The budget aims to pull Nigeria out of a recession that was caused by low global oil prices that have slashed government revenues, weakened the Naira and caused chronic dollar shortages.