By Williams Anuku
Barring any last minute changes in plan, President Muhammadu Buhari will on Tuesday present the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF-FSP) to the National Assembly for passage.
The presentation is sequel to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), approval to the N700 billion increase in the appropriations bill, raising the total figure from N10.O02 trillion to N10.729 trillion on Monday at an extra ordinary meeting held at the presidential villa.
The changes in the appropriation bill was said to have been endorsed by FEC even as the Council members lauded the National Assembly for the increment of the crude oil benchmark from $55 per barrel to $57 per barrel.
When the Senate took the decision, there were insinuations that the Executive may reject the jerking up of the proposed budget size in the MTEF with over N700 billion.
Though the ministers did not disclose officially the outcome of the extraordinary meeting which lasted about five hours, it was reliably gathered that members of the cabinet commended the legislators for increasing the benchmark.
The source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “FEC is happy with the National Assembly for increasing the benchmark to $57 per barrel. The additional $2 is to take care of recruitment in the security agencies and also attend to critical areas.
“This is a sign that the legislature and the executive will work together for the interest of Nigerians. It is a good development.”
The extraordinary FEC meeting was believed to have deliberated on the 2020 Appropriation Bill expected to be laid before the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Departmental heads of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning led by the Director General of Budget, Ben Akabueze made submissions at the meeting.
The meeting started with the rendition of national anthem and Christian prayer led by the Minister of Health while the Muslim prayer was led by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
Recall that the extraordinary FEC meeting originally scheduled to hold on Saturday last week was shifted to Monday with no tangible reasons.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had maintained that the meeting was to put finishing touches to the 2020 annual budget.
Recall that the Senate had called for the increase of the oil benchmark from $55 per barre to $65 per barrel so as to have some funds to be injected into the economy.
The Senate had noted that the nation’s economic growth which was less than three percent was poor.
The upper chamber also argued that injecting money into the economy would help in the provision of infrastructure, security as well as other critical sectors. .
”We have seen an economic growth that is less than three percent. For a developing country, three percent economic growth is poor, it is not good enough. This is not a figure that we will be looking at as a developing country.
“China has growth rate of five and six percent, India has growth rate of nine to ten percent. So for a development country that wants to get to where we want to get to, a two to three percent economic growth rate is very poor.
“So, what does this mean? It means that we need to invest more in the economy, it means that there has to be more capital inflow into the economy, it means that the amount we are spending on infrastructure, security and other vital critical areas must be increased.
“But where is the money? The money is there. If you raise the oil benchmark from $55 per barrel to $65 per barrel bearing in mind that the average price of crude oil has gone to $70 per barrel.
“We easily realize enough money to begin to invest in some of these critical areas. So, my proposal is that the Finance Committee considers raising the benchmark for crude oil for the purposes of this budget from $55 per barrel to $65 per barrel.
“You will have enough money to begin to invest into security and other critical areas, ” the Senate insisted.