The Presidency yesterday disclosed that the 2023 budget proposal was still open to alteration to accommodate inputs that may have been inadvertently omitted before its presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly on Friday.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who stated this while briefing newsmen after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Buhari at the State House, Abuja, stressed that the budget proposal was the only item for the consideration of the council to enable members to make input.
According to him, if need arises, the budget proposal could be tweaked to accommodate necessary inputs adding that the proposals were discussed at length.
Asked if the FEC meeting endorsed the budget, Adesina emphasised that: “What was done was that it was discussed extensively and there were inputs, whichever input needs to be reflected before Friday will be done and then it will be presented to the National Assembly.
“Let me tell you, you’ll have the Revised 2023/2025 Fiscal Framework; you will have expenditure profile; you’ll have budget proposal, you’ll have aggregate expenditure, overhead cost, personnel cost, capital expenditure and so on and so forth.
“So, all those things have been discussed and where they needed to tweak some of the projections that have been done. The final approved copy will be presented by the President on Friday.”
He further said: “It was virtually a one item for the Executive Council meeting in which the budget proposals for 2023 was presented and discussed, at length.
“That budget proposal will be taken to the National Assembly on Friday morning by Mr. President. So, it will not be proper to begin to discuss the contents of what will be officially presented on Friday.
“So, that is the information I have for us. We won’t have the traditional briefing of what happened at the Council, because it’s about the budget that will be presented on Friday morning. We’ll want to give the National Assembly that honour of receiving it first. Thank you.”
Asked about the details, he said: “When will it be appropriate to speak about it, after the budget has been represented?
“Yes. You know, usually after the budget has been presented, then there will be a breakdown by the Minister of Finance. So, it will not be proper to begin to unveil what is being taken to the National Assembly on Friday.”
On what the debt profile looks like, the media adviser said it was one of the facts contained in the proposal.
The presidential spokesman also explained why the council cannot resume full in-person meeting which was suspended in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.
According to him, “You know, you have to follow the protocols, as done by the steering committee on COVID-19 and the last protocol they announced was that when you are in an open place, you are at liberty to do without your mask, but when you are in an enclosed place, then it is advisable to still use your mask.
“The Council Chambers is enclosed. There are, I think 42 ministers. By the time 42 ministers congregate there, along with other Cabinet Office staff, it’s becoming choked, then it may not be advisable to have a full blown physical meeting yet, but I’m sure we’ll get to that point.”
Also responding to a question on the number of vacancies in Resident Electoral Commission (REC) positions that are yet to be filled, he said: “I can tell you that that issue has come up and is receiving consideration.”
Senate Dumps Panel’s Recommendations, Approves N3.6trn Oil Subsidy
Meanwhile, the Senate at plenary yesterday rejected the recommendation of its Committee on Finance which slashed the oil subsidy payable in the 2023 fiscal year from the N3. 6 trillion proposed by the executive arm of government to N1. 7 trillion
The Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Solomon Adeola, presented the report of the Senate Joint Committee on Finance, National Planning and Economic Affairs on the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper before the red chamber at plenary.
Adeola said the panel decided to slash the N3.6 trillion in order to reduce the fiscal deficit of N11.3 trillion as contained in the MTEF/FSP.
The proposal by his panel on the subsidy was however rejected while other recommendations were approved.
Adeola said, “The Committee hereby recommends that the cost of petroleum subsidy be capped at N3.6 trillion accordingly.
“All relevant agencies of the governments will be required to take necessary action to keep the petroleum subsidy cost to government within N1.7 trillion ceiling in 2023 by this action.
“A saving of the sum of N737,306,443,151 will be saved and this should be used to reduce the fiscal deficit of N11.3 trillion of the government as contained in the MTEF/FSP.
“That the fiscal deficit of N11.3 trillion be reduced with the savings from subsidy regime amounting to N737.31 billion to N10.563 trillion.”
The Committee’s recommendation of $73 per barrel oil price benchmark for the proposed N19.76 2023 budget was however approved against $70 per barrel proposed by the executive in the MTEF/FSP documents.
The panel also recommended daily crude oil production of 1.69million barrel per day, 1.83mbpd, and 1.83mbpd for 2023, 2024 and 2025 respectively, be approved.
It also said the oil price of $73 per barrel of crude oil be approved as a result of continuous increase in the oil price in the global oil market and other peculiar situations such as continuous invasion of Ukraine by Russia as this will result in saving of N155 billion.
The panel said the exchange rate of N437.57 billion be sustained as contained in the MTEF/FSP document with continuous engagement between the Central Bank of Nigeria and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning with the view of bridging the gap between the official market and parallel market.
It also recommended the projected Gross Domestic Product growth rate of 3.75 per cent be approved.
The projected Inflation rate of 17.16 per cent proposed by the executive was also retained by the panel.
It asked the Senate to approve the projected new borrowings of N8.437 trillion (including Foreign and domestic Borrowing), proposed by the executive.
Other parameters recommended by the panel in the 2023-2025 MTEF/FSP document included among others, a retained revenue of N9.352 trillion as result of increase in the benchmark as the ceiling oil subsidy to the year in review.
Many of the senators in their submissions before the adoption of the report expressed their reservations over the N437 to a dollar exchange rate which according to them gives over N300 difference to the N 730 or N740 to a dollar is being exchanged at the parallel market.
House Receives 2023-2025 MTEF-FSP Report
In a related development, ahead of the presentation of the Appropriation Bill, members of the House of Representatives have received report on the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).
The Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Hon. James Faleke laid the MTEF/FSP report to the House at plenary yesterday.
The lawmaker and his counterpart in the Senate had from August through September held interactive sessions with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government on the framework, which budget preparation is anchored on.
Earlier, the House Leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa moved a motion for the admittance of the president to present the 2023 budget estimates on Friday, it was seconded by Minority Leader Hon. Ndudi Elumelu.
Thereafter the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila directed the Sergeant -at-arms to get the temporary chambers ready for the president’s visit.