The Presidency on Tuesday gave reasons President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t keep to his administration’s promise to present the 2020 budget to the National Assembly in the third week of September.
It also said Buhari, who would visit South Africa this week, would present the budget next week.
This came as findings by The PUNCH indicated that the non-presentation of the estimates had increased pressure on the administration to achieve a return of the country to the January-December budget cycle.
Nigeria currently runs a May-June budget cycle, a development caused by executive-legislature delays since the 8th National Assembly. The delays have caused “distortions” in implementation and the inability to meet budget targets.
On why Buhari was unable to keep to his promise of September presentation, the Presidency blamed it on the fact that the National Assembly had yet to consider and pass the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategic Paper, which should ordinarily precede the estimates.
It also noted that throughout last week, Buhari was away to the United States, where he participated in the activities of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
It added that the UNGA session would still have delayed the presentation had the National Assembly passed the MTEF.
Incidentally, The PUNCH learnt that the letter conveying the MTEF to the National Assembly was only read to lawmakers on September 25, the same last week.
The MTEF sets out the Federal Government’s spending plans for the next three years, detailing both revenue profiles and spending projections.
But, in his response to enquiries by The PUNCH, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Reps), Mr Umar El-Yakub, argued that much as the presentation was delayed, it was for some reasons.
He gave his defence, “Remember that the MTEF was presented to both chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) last week.
“You also know the President just returned from New York at the weekend where he attended the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Coincidentally, today is Independence Day (Tuesday), meaning that only yesterday (Monday) was there to present the budget if he was to present it.
“But, it will be the best bet if he (Buhari) presents the budget after the MTEF has been considered and passed by the National Assembly. So, yes, the budget is a bit late by a week or two, but for good reasons.
“Perhaps, we didn’t anticipate UNGA and the fact that MTEF had to be finalised and approved by the Federal Executive Council before it was transmitted to the National Assembly.”
El-Yakub insisted that the delay had not caused any serious setback to the budgeting process, adding that the January-December target could still be met if the presentation was done this month.
“However, we still maintain and still looking forward to this month. We are still going to meet up with the January-December budget cycle that Mr President and the National Assembly talked about”, he added.
Asked when the estimates would be presented, the presidential aide replied, “Mr President will be travelling to South Africa on Wednesday (today).
“By the time he comes back, the budget presentation will be done next week (2nd week of October), though I can’t confirm a specific date to you right now.”