It no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari has received the 2020 Appropriation Bill but what is new is that he may take his time to scrutinise and sign the document, probably to spot padding.
On the bill, which was sent to the President on Thursday by the National Assembly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Umar el-Yakub, said, “I am sure you know that the President will take his time to look at it all through before assent.”
Nairametrics had reported that the Senate, on Thursday, December 5, 2019, passed the 2020 National Budget of N10.59 trillion, two months after President Buhari presented the bill before a joint session of the National Assembly. At the time of the presentation, the revenue generation estimated to fund the 2020 national budget was N8.155 trillion.
Presidency fears budget padding: The 2020 budget of N10.59 trillion, which includes a deficit of N2.18 trillion, about 1.52% of the estimated gross domestic product, remains the highest amount dedicated to a Nigerian budget. Before it was passed by the Senate, the Presidency said it would scrutinize the budget in order to avoid padding by the lawmakers.
Budget padding has been an issue in Nigeria in recent years, leading to accusations between the Presidency and the National Assembly. The budget was increased by the Senate, so it’s understandable when the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said a thorough examination will be done on the passed budget.
The budget circle: Nigeria has a history of passing the budget late, which has seen the country operating outside the January to December budget circle for 11-years.
The last time the Senate passed a budget before January was in 2008. But in recent years, the Senate has gradually reduced the timeframe for consideration and passage of the budget. The passage of the 2017 and 2018 budget took six months each, while the 2019 budget was passed five months after President Buhari presented the appropriation bill in December 2018.
Now that the Senate has passed the budget, there is hope of returning back to the January to December budget cycle, just as the fear of budget padding might just delay the President from assenting to the bill.