THE National Assembly has been allocated N65 billion out of the N2.5 trillion spending plan for 2008 proposed by President Umaru Yar‘Adua. N2.2 billion of the proposal has been earmarked for food, details of the proposal obtained by Sunday Vanguard have revealed.
The Presidency including the State House has been allocated N26.9 billion in the 2008 spending plan with N1.301 billion going for feeding and refreshment in the State House.
The N1.301 billion feeding plan for Aso Rock Villa is broken into N827.4 million for refreshment while another N474.06 million has been proposed for the procurement of food stuff in the State House. In effect, the Presidential Villa would be spending about N2.3 million and N1.3 million daily for refreshment and procurement of food stuff respectively.
Out of the N65 billion proposed expenditure by the National Assembly, the Senate is to spend N19.893 billion, while N32.97 billion is to be spent on sustaining the 360 members of the House of Representatives. The balance of the legislature’s budget is to be spent on the National Assembly bureaucracy. The N65 billion vote for the legislature is the highest figure ever received by the legislature since the advent of the fourth republic.
A significant proportion of the National Assembly budget, amounting to N15.879 billion is devoted to keeping the legislators travelling across the country and the world in their duties. Members of the House of Representatives are to expend N10.33 billion for travelling purposes within and outside the country next year, a figure that is besides another N268.8 million earmarked for travelling for training- related purposes. A total of N5.032 billion has been earmarked for the “general” travel of senators within and outside the country while another N278.2 million is proposed for travelling for training purposes.
The Presidency is expected to spend N1.27 billion for local and international trips within the same period besides another N760.8 million proposed for travelling for training of Presidency aides and staff. In seeming admission of the challenges posed by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) the Presidency is proposing to spend N225,612 daily, amounting to N82.574 million in the year to buy fuel to run the generators servicing the State House and adjoining Presidency offices. The National Assembly on its part has a proposal to buy fuel for its generators at a cost of N63 million.
Despite the monetisation policy of the Federal Government, the Presidency is also proposing to spend N102.7 million on rents for some officials in the year while tax payers are to cough out N1.5 million for paying for the reading glasses of presidential aides domiciled in the State House.
The Presidency is also proposing to spend N10.468 million on sewages, another N80.7 million for the payment of telephone charges while N13.8 million is proposed to keep insects and other pests at bay from the Presidential Villa. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is to begin deliberations on the 2008 budget proposal on Tuesday with the hope of completing discussions on its general principles within two days. The House plans to fast track work on every issue concerning the budget so that it would be passed by the end of the year.
The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Festus Adegoke, who briefed House Press Corps, Friday, on the plans for the budget, noted that members had resolved to work round the clock to meet the target date of completing everything on the budget by the end of the year.
Towards this end, he said, the House was in liaison with the Senate to explore ways to avoid the need for a conference committee of the two chambres of the National Assembly to harmonize the budget where there are differences in the positions of both chambres.
This, he noted, was necessary in order to reduce the amount of time needed to get the budget ready for assent by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. “As far as the 2008 budget is concerned and as far as the Appropriation Committee is concerned, we will be working round the clock so that by the end of the year, we would have rounded off everything that has to do with the 2008 budget so that Mr. President can assent to it and it becomes law,” he said.
He revealed plans to jack up the budget based on the benchmark of $53 to meet with the yearnings of Nigerians so that several more areas could be taken care of including roads, health and education sectors, saying that the issue would be debated extensively in the House.
Adegoke assured that the Appropriation Committee would look at the current international crude oil market situation to determine the appropriate benchmark for the budget, saying that whatever decision was reached on the budget would make it realistic. Speaking specifically on the proposed amount for the Niger Delta, he observed that the area needed more attention and whatever was voted for it in the 2008 budget to ameliorate the neglect suffered by the area would not be out of place.
Also speaking on the modalities for the consideration of the budget, the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Ita Enang, remarked that the House had decided to give full attention to the budget being “the most important Bill in the history of the parliament which affects all the 360 constituencies in the country.” According to him, “since it is the first full budget of Mr. President since assumption of office, we have decided that we should pass it at whatever cost but reasonably so, so that he can sign it within the year.”
He recalled that the 2007 budget was signed into law before the end of 2006 which made it possible for ministries and parastatals to know where they were starting from at the beginning of 2007. Enang therefore added that it was even more important to pass the budget this year since the president had decided that there would be no more carry over of projects of the preceding year meaning that money not expended at the end of the year would be returned to the treasury.
“So, we have to ensure that we pass the budget early enough so that the implementation can start early enough and the pace of the implementation of the budget by the President will follow as the National Assembly and Mr. President deem appropriate,” he stated. The chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Eziuche Ubani, in his contribution, stressed the readiness of the House members to rededicate themselves to the business of lawmaking after losing so much time in the leadership crisis that bedeviled the House.