President Bola Tinubu yesterday, signed the 2024 appropriation Bill into law in line with avowed commitment to maintaining a timeous, predictable and efficient budget cycle. He expressed joy with the N100bn approved for school feeding nationwide.
The signing came 35 days after the President submitted a N27.5 trillion 2024 budget proposal to the joint sitting of the National Assembly on November 29, 2023, for approval.
The President assented to the bill at the State House, shortly after returning to Abuja, after an 11-day stay in Lagos to observe the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Speaking at the signing of the bill, Tinubu recalled that, “When I presented the budget on November 29, 2023, I presented N27.5 trillion and I called for expeditious treatment of the budget, the review, the passing, the debate and all that.
“Today (yesterday) we have a budget of N28.7 trillion with an increase of N1.2 trillion over the proposal that I submitted. I thank the National Assembly for this prompt review adjustment and auditing necessary. This is evidence and a great testament to the excellent relationship between the executive and the legislature. We should keep it up.
“In my address then, I remarked that the budget is a budget of renewed hope. It is anchored on reducing the deficit and increasing capital expenditure particularly in our priority areas. The Approved 2024 budget that we just approved achieve both objectives.
“It contains a very good increase in the capital side, a reduction in recurrent expenditure and it brought down the deficit from 6.11 per cent to 3.88 per cent. That, to me, is an achievement.”
He assured Nigerians that the implementation of the budget would be efficiently pursued and vigorously monitored, adding: “All the institutional mechanisms shall be held to account in ensuring diligent implementation.”
According to him: “All MDA’s have been directed to take responsibility and provide monthly Budget Performance Reports to the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, which in turn shall ensure the veracity of such. The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy shall hold regular reviews with the Economic Management Team and, in addition, I shall chair periodic Economic Coordination Council meetings.”
The top priorities of the 2024 budget of N28.7 trillion are defence and internal security, job creation, macro-economic stability, improved investment environment, human capital development, poverty reduction, and social security.
The President emphasised that his commitment to enhance investment promotion while creating a rules-based society that favours no individual over the law begins with important reforms in the Nigerian judiciary, the funding for which was captured in the 2024 Appropriation Act.
“Funding the judiciary is a major element in our effort to support a just, rules-based society. Statutory transfer to the Judiciary has been increased from 165 billion naira to 342 billion naira,” the President said.
Tinubu also expressed happiness about the N100 billion approved by the National Assembly for the feeding of school children across the nation.
His words: “While we take power and steel and other projects, one of the priority areas we just passed is the N100 billion provision for the feeding of school children. That is a stimulant that will encourage our school attendance and others.
“I’ve been meeting with local governments at sub-national levels so that we can collaborate and jointly bring an all-inclusive program that will help.”
Some of the key estimates are capital expenditure – N10 trillion; recurrent expenditure – N8.8 trillion; debt service -N8.2 trillion, and statutory transfers, N1.7 trillion.
President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Tajudeen Abbas, were present at the signing ceremony.
Other senior government officials present at the brief ceremony included Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun; Chief of Staff to the President, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Atiku Bagudu, and National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
Answering reporters’ questions after the signing ceremony, Edun, said implementation of the budget would be given top priority, adding that the budget was focused on growing the economy.
“The next in line now is implementation. The N28.8 trillion budget has been signed into law by Mr. President so it’s immediate implementation and it’s a very hopeful budget, one that will really inspire Nigerians and encourage those who are investors to come out and invest and even those who rely on government, such as school children and the education sector, they have a lot to benefit.
“But overall, the change in this budget is that it is focused on growing the economy. The capital expenditure is larger than the recurrent expenditure; over N10 trillion is going to be the capital expenditure, while recurrent is just about N8.8 trillion. I think that shows the direction of travel, it shows that we can expect an economy rejuvenated, re-galvanised and set for growth.
“On the issue of financing, usually our budget will try to plan sometimes we’ll have critical issues when it comes to the issue of financial shortfalls here. And there, as coordinating minister, looking at what you see on the table for this project,” he added.
Asked how government would get the finances to fund the budget, the Minister said government at the centre would be relying more on revenue and less on external borrowing to fund the 2024 Appropriation Act.
According to him: “The first thing to say is that it’s a lower budget deficit, so it’s a lower financing requirement and in fact, as a percentage of GDP, the budget deficit is down from 6.1 per cent to 3.8 per cent
“So we’re relying less on borrowing and more on revenue and I think you have to take the two together. I think we’re very optimistic about the improvements in revenue that will take place.
“We are all ready, even from tomorrow, applying technology and the digitalisation to ensure that the revenue that should come to government from all sources, including from government-owned enterprises, comes into the consolidated revenue fund and on the other side, we are bringing order to government borrowing, so Ways and Means is being eliminated by taking the funding that is required from the market, as opposed to from printing of money by the central bank.
“That, in a nutshell, is what is happening on the financing side. We are very optimistic that not only will this budget be funded adequately, but it will be funded on a timely basis as well.
Also speaking to newsmen, Bagudu, said the budget was a game changer that increased spending in priority areas like education, health and infrastructure.
He said: “This is a budget that has been developed, that came out of recognition of all the planning tools that are available and are our priorities, the Renewed Hope Agenda, the eight priority areas of Mr. President, and the clarity by Mr. President, that budgeting should reflect our priorities and should be implemented and Mr. President captured it today in his speech, this budget is not only what it is, in terms of ambition, and in terms of reducing deficit, increasing capital expenditure and reducing recurrent deficit, it’s going to be implemented.
“He was very clear with the warning to all ministries, departments and agencies that everyone will earn his own pay, in terms of generating revenue and implementing the budget as passed into law. So this is a game changer.
“Equally, to follow up from where the Coordinating Minister left it, is to acknowledge that this is a budget that has increased spending in our priority areas; Human Capital Development, Education, Health and Infrastructure, from Works, Power, Housing, Water Resources, as well as Innovation, Digital Economy, Creative Economy, Science and Technology. Humanitarian spending has also gone up.”
Responding to claims that the budget was done in a hurry, Bagudu said “There’s nothing like in a hurry. This shows that people are on their toes. Mr. President had experience as a member of the National Assembly, he had the experience as a state governor and then luckily for us as a country, now he’s sitting atop the affairs as the President.
“Equally, many members of his team; the Vice President, Chief of Staff, SGF, many ministers, the First Lady of the Federation, so there has been a build-up of relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive as it ought to be.
“Committees are supposed to be working, it’s not when you are passing budget that committees should know the priorities of the relevant sectors. Mr. President, ever since he was sworn in, left no one in doubt that look, I want you to respect institutions; as ministers, respect National Assembly. They work well with the committees.
“The oversight is respected, we welcome interrogation, he said so publicly. So even before the budget process started full-stream, there was good understanding about what the challenges are, what the priorities are, and therefore it’s easy to come to conclusion as to what we should do, and that’s what we have done.
“Mr. President equally directed that he recognises the separation of powers; Judiciary, National Assembly, that’s why there’s a significant increase in funding to the Judiciary because just like the national defense spending, he wants to ensure that all the three arms of government are well funded, so that they can complement each other and deliver on the budget commitments.”
On his part, Akpabio, told reporters that the National Assembly would ensure strict implementation of the 2024 federal budget.
According to him: “Ours is to ensure that we make sure that we monitor what goes on to ensure that yes, indeed, it is wanting to do a budget is another thing for the budget to be fully implemented.
“We will make sure that if there is need that we also undertake joint monitoring of the implementation of the budget to ensure that yes, nobody can tell us one thing in the green chambers or nothing in the red chambers. We will make sure that we monitor very well.
“The President has also assured us that he has passed the marching orders so that ours is to make sure that we do our job oversight, oversight, oversight, oversight.”