The federal government will present the 2019 budget to the National Assembly in September in a bid to restore the January to December budget cycle.

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, confirmed this in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust in Abuja,

The minister said the federal government had consulted widely with members of the National Assembly in that regard.

The presentation of the last two budgets could not achieve that threshold.  The president presented the 2017 fiscal document to the lawmakers in the second week of December 2016 while that of 2018 was presented in the first week of November, 2017.

Speaking on the current effort, the minister said: “Our aspirations is that we want to meet the requirements of the law to submit it by September but as you know the National assembly is itself away on recess and they resume by September.”

She said the law encourages the executive to submit the budget by September and the idea is that by December, the budget is passed.

The Minister also said the N1.56 trillion spent by the federal government on capital projects was the highest amount ever spent on capital projects in the history of Nigeria.

She said the federal government released 60 per cent of the total N2.2 trillion budgeted for capital projects in 2017, being the highest value ever spent in the country.

The Minister said the 2017 budget did well as the country executed 100 per cent of the personnel component, ensuring that salaries and pensions were paid, including pension arrears.

She said Nigeria’s projected revenue was about N5 trillion, but was only able to generate N2.7 trillion, or 54 per cent of the total.

The underperformance in the revenue was not in the oil and gas sector, she stated.

She said despite the fact that production did not go up to the 2.3 million barrels per day projected for the year, oil and gas sector revenue hit 95 per cent largely due to increase in oil price in the international market.

“Non-oil revenue performance was not as high as we had expected,” the Minister said.

She revealed that revenues from Customs stood at 29 per cent of what was projected while the Federal Inland Revenue Service achieved about 60 per cent.

She said where Nigeria had significant shortfall of 25 per cent was in independent revenues generated by government owned enterprises such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that were supposed to remit operational surpluses.

She said the government also planned to sell some equities to raise N700 billion but that transaction did not happen.

“In general, 2017 budget performed reasonably well and all the debts we were supposed to borrow, we were able to do 100 per cent,” she said.

On why non-oil revenues did not perform as expected the Minister said: “The taxes you collect are also indicative of the performance of businesses in the economy. Because of the recession, a lot of businesses were struggling and couldn’t perform as they should and getting taxes will be as a result of the profit declared by companies.”

She said FIRS in 2015, when this government came into power, had a tax payer base of about 13 million and has been able to push that up by 17 per cent now.

Budget cycle inconsistency bane of economic development – Experts

The inconsistency in Nigeria’s budget cycle has given room for speculations and poor implementation, experts had warned recently.

Also according to data obtained from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) 2016 Annual Report and Audited Accounts, from 2011 to 2017, the time of approvals of the budgets is well into the New Year.

The earliest was that of 2013 which was submitted to the National Assembly on Oct. 10, 2012 and assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan on Feb. 26, 2013, indicating a five month time lag.

All others were presented to the National Assembly in December and assented to in April, May or June.

In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), experts said that the inconsistency does not augur well for the economy.

Mr Atiku Samuel, Head of Research, BudgIT, said the economy depends on fiscal, monetary and trade policies to power it.

“Monetary authorities look closely at the budget for direction and that is why the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was reluctant at its first meeting in 2018 to take action.

Mr EzeOnyekpere, Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), said the fact that the nation no longer had a fixed budget calendar had introduced inconsistency and uncertainty into the economy.

He said this trend had influenced poor economic performance in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), growth and ability to meet sectoral objectives.

Mr Victor Muruako, the Acting Chairman FRC, also said the trend reduces predictability and affects planning even within the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), and with those doing business.

The FRC report also said that a strict budget timetable should be incorporated into the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), 2007.

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