Senate panel raises 2018 budget from N8.612tr to N9.120tr

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The Senate Committee on Appropriation has increased the 2018 budget from N8.612 trillion to N9.120 trillion.

The Chairman of the committee, Danjuma Goje, laid the report before the Senate, yesterday, amid expectations that the budget bill might be considered and passed next week.

Although the details are yet to be unveiled, the synopsis showed that N530,421,368,624 is for statutory transfer; N2,203,835,365,699 for debt service; N199b for sinking fund for maturing loans; N3,516,477,902,077 for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, and N2,869,600,351,825 for development fund for capital expenditure.

The life span of the 2017 budget expires May 31, 2018.

President Muhammadu Buhari had presented a budget proposal of N8.612trillion on November 7, 2017. Since then, the budget bill has suffered setbacks due to face-offs between the executive and legislative arms of government.

On several occasions, the Senate had accused heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of refusing to honour invitations to defend budgets proposed for their organisations.

The Senate, however, has adjourned plenary session till today, without a word on when the report would be considered.

Spokesman Abdullahi Sabi Aliu said, last week, that there would be no difference between the bill passed by the Senate and the one passed by the House of Representatives.

"The good thing is that it is a joint work between the House and the Senate.

So, whatever is laid in the Senate would be exactly the same thing that will be laid in the House of Representatives. And we are going to consider it the same day," Sabi said.

Also, at the House of Representatives, yesterday, the Mustapha Bala Dawaki-led House Committee on Appropriation laid the report at the plenary presided over by Deputy Speaker Sulaimon Yussuf Lasun.

Lasun said the House would consider the report at noon tomorrow.

Meanwhile, stakeholders at the ongoing public hearing on the Petroleum Industry Administration, Fiscal and Host Community Bills, have expressed concern over the nation’s loss of investments worth $250 billion, a situation they blamed on the absence of supportive legislations for the oil and gas industry reform.

Members of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), comprising 28 indigenous and international operators of 90 per cent of the oil and gas sector applauded the ingenuity of the National Assembly on the bill.

They, however, frowned on provisions for the relinquishment of licensed areas, as well as retrospective legislations on the relinquishment of fees after seven years.

They kicked against the punitive legislation on the revocation of licence over delay in the submission of data, as well as the $2/mmbtu on gas flaring. They recommended instead $0.5 or its equivalent in naira at the prevailing exchange rate per 1,000 standard cubic feet of gas in the case of routine flaring.

According to a joint statement by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria has lost some $250 billion worth of investments due to its inability to legislate on the proposed reforms.

They gave the breakdown as: “$15b yearly in investments withheld or diverted to other countries because of uncertainty, as investors do not know which rules will guide their investments; and another $14.7b potential earnings in seven years (2010-2017), had the Petroleum Industry Bill been passed into law in 2009."

They observed that the tax burden on the operators could render many deepwater and gas projects less attractive and recommended the calculation of cost efficiency factors by increasing the percentage of revenue used in the computation to at least 30 per cent.

The oil workers also aligned with the OPTS and independent producers on overbearing powers conferred on the National Petroleum Regulatory Commission, just as they kicked against indiscriminate award of oil blocs to former or serving public officers or members of government.

To ensure adequate funding of the Host Community Development Fund, the unions noted that the 2.5 per cent operating budget is inadequate, while the oil and gas companies expressed concern that the bill imposes additional financial burden on those who are already paying taxes, fees and royalties.

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