The National Assembly on Friday explained that the reduction of funds appropriated to several projects as well as the inclusion of new projects in the 2018 budget was done to correct a perceived imbalance and promote the principle of Federal Character.
The clarification was made by the federal lawmakers in response to comments by President Muhammadu Buhari at the budget signing ceremony on Wednesday that the appropriation act for 2018 had been significantly altered and may affect the execution of projects by his administration.
Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi and Abdul-Razak Nandas, respectively, made the National Assembly’s position known at a joint press conference in Abuja on Friday.
According to the legislators, it was important that they used the powers granted them by the constitution to modify the budget in order to “address geopolitical imbalances” that came with the initial executive bill in order to “give a sense of belonging” to every region in Nigeria.
They said, “Adjustments and reductions in the locations, costs and number of projects approved were made in order to address geopolitical imbalances that came with the executive proposal. The introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The number of projects had to be increased in order to give a sense of belonging to every geopolitical zone of the country to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command national loyalty.
“Within the context of the provisions of Sections 4, 80 and 81 of the Constitution, everything that the National Assembly has done is within its powers.”
The National Assembly spokespersons also accused presidential aides for the President’s remarks, stating that they failed to properly brief their principal throughout the appropriation process, as well as on the changes made to the budget.
“It is our firm belief that if the President had been properly briefed by his appointees, he would not have raised most of the concerns that he did in his remarks at the budget signing. It is therefore inevitable for the legislature to give members of the public an insight into what transpired during the appropriation process and how we arrived at the decisions that are contained in the 2018 budget,” the National Assembly said.
Defending the introduction of 6,403 projects of their own into the budget, the National Assembly, however, said the costs of these projections purportedly peddled by the Presidency as amounting to N578 billion was “over-exaggerated.”