Buhari signs N21.8tn 2023 budget

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President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the 2023 budget along with the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Bill into law in the presence of Senate President Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and other members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the presidential villa.

Speaking at the signing on Tuesday, President Buhari said the 2023 budget provided for aggregate expenditures of N21.83 trillion, an increase of N1.32 trillion, over the N20.51 trillion proposal submitted to the National Assembly.

The president also noted the changes made by the lawmakers, saying they appropriated N770.72 billion for new projects they introduced and increased the provisions made by ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) by N58.55 billion.

President Buhari stated, “We have examined the changes made by the National Assembly to the 2023 Executive Budget proposal. The amended fiscal framework for 2023, as approved by the National Assembly, shows additional revenues of N765.79 billion, and an unfunded deficit of N553.46 billion.”

“The National Assembly and the executive need to capture some of the proposed additional revenue sources in the fiscal framework. This must be rectified.”

He further explained that his decision to sign the 2023 budget into law as passed by the National Assembly was to enable an immediate implementation, considering the imminent transition process to another democratically elected government.

The president, however, directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to engage the legislature to revisit some of the changes made to the budget proposal, while expressing the hope that the National Assembly would cooperate with the executive in that regard.

He also thanked the lawmakers for approving his request for an extension of the 2022 budget implementation date to March 31 to ensure more effective implementation of the capital component.

President Buhari also directed the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work towards the early release of the 2023 capital votes to enable MDAs to begin implementation of their capital projects in good time to support efforts to deliver key projects and public services as well as improve the living conditions of Nigerians.

He noted that adequate provisions had been made in the budget for the successful conduct of the forthcoming general elections and the transition programme.

On achieving revenue targets for the budget, he directed MDAs and Government Owned Enterprises (GOEs) to intensify their revenue mobilisation efforts, including ensuring that all taxable organisations and individuals pay taxes due.

He also urged relevant agencies to sustain current efforts towards the realisation of crude oil production and export targets to achieve the laudable objectives of the 2023 budget.

According to him, “To augment available fiscal resources, MDAs are to accelerate the implementation of public-private partnership initiatives, especially those designed to fast-track the pace of our infrastructural development.”

“This, being a deficit budget, the associated borrowing plan will be forwarded to the National Assembly shortly.”

“I count on the cooperation of the National Assembly for speedy consideration and approval of the plan”.

On the Finance Bill 2022, the president expressed regret that its review, as passed by the National Assembly had not been finalised.

“This is because some of the changes made by the National Assembly need to be reviewed by the relevant agencies of government. I urge that this should be done speedily to enable me to assent to it”.

He, however, expressed optimism that the next administration would sustain the early presentation of the annual appropriation bill to the National Assembly to ensure passage before the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Speaking after the signing of the budget, Lawan assured that the National Assembly would work to ensure increased funds for the government and reduce the rate of the deficit in the budget.

“But that is not to say that we should raise taxes that will be out of the roof to cause problems for our citizens. But I believe that as a National Assembly, in the next five months, we must be looking at increasing the funds available to the government and ensuring that the deficit budget is minimised in the next assembly by the grace of God”.

On his part, Gbajabiamila said the lawmakers did not jack up the budget but carried out their constitutional responsibility, adding that they would not want to be seen as a “rubber stamp to the executive.”

“If you understand constitutional democracy, there are different layers of government, and it is called separation of powers. Ours is for us to receive proposals, and that’s why they’re called proposals anywhere in the world.”

He added, “It now behoves the National Assembly, where it deems fit to adjust figures, either downwards or upwards and that’s exactly what we have done.”

“If you return the budget the exact way it is, you (National Assembly) are called a rubber stamp. If you do what you’re supposed to do and adjust figures for the good of the country, they call it jacking up or inflation or padding.”