The Ondo State Assembly did not make a declaration appointing Aiyedatiwa as the Acting Governor.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 28, 2023
Updated 2023/11/28 at 11:36 PM

The Ondo State House of Assembly has fallen short of declaring Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa as the Acting Governor. This development comes amidst the absence of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is currently away on official duties.

Despite mounting expectations and speculations, the Assembly has not taken the step to formally designate Aiyedatiwa as the Acting Governor, leaving a temporary leadership vacuum in the state. This decision, or lack thereof, raises questions about the legislative stance and the procedural intricacies involved in the appointment of an acting governor in the absence of the substantive governor.

The Ondo Assembly’s failure to declare Aiyedatiwa as the Acting Governor adds an element of uncertainty to the state’s political landscape. It remains to be seen how this decision, or lack of it, will impact the governance and administration of the state during the absence of Governor Akeredolu.

On Wednesday, President Bola Tinubu is scheduled to formally present the 2024 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly, marking a crucial step in the fiscal planning for the coming year. The announcement follows the approval of the bill by the Federal Executive Council during its weekly meeting on Monday.

During the meeting presided over by President Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja, the Federal Executive Council gave the green light to the 2024 Appropriation Bill, which now stands at a total of N27.5 trillion. This figure represents an increase from the initially considered N26.01 trillion, signaling adjustments and considerations made during the deliberations.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Abubakar Bagudu, shared the news of the bill’s approval with State House correspondents after the conclusion of the FEC meeting. The revised budget reflects the government’s commitment to addressing emerging needs and ensuring the allocation of resources aligns with the nation’s developmental priorities.

As the presentation of the 2024 Appropriation Bill approaches, stakeholders and the public anticipate insights into the government’s fiscal strategy, sectoral allocations, and key policy initiatives aimed at driving economic growth and addressing pressing national issues. The budgetary process is a crucial aspect of governance, shaping the trajectory of the country’s economic and social development in the coming year.

Governor Atiku Bagudu, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, revealed that the Federal Government is anticipating a revenue projection of N18tn for the fiscal year 2024. He made this disclosure during a briefing, emphasizing that more comprehensive details of the appropriation bill would be unveiled when the President presents it to a joint session of the National Assembly on the upcoming Wednesday.

Highlighting the ongoing processes, Bagudu mentioned that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, which had already received approval from the National Assembly, is currently under review by the Federal Executive Council. Additionally, he announced that the Federal Executive Council has given its approval for the 2024 Appropriation Bill, setting the stage for its presentation to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Governor expressed the government’s commitment to transparency and thorough scrutiny in the budgetary process.

“The proposed bill entails an aggregate expenditure of N27.5tn, marking a notable increase of over N1.5tn from the prior estimate, based on the old reference prices,” stated the Minister of Budget and National Planning.

Providing further details, he explained, “The forecast revenue is now projected at N18.32tn, surpassing the 2023 revenues, including those outlined in the two supplementary budgets. Additionally, the deficit is lower than that of 2023. Comprehensive information on the Renewed Hope Budget will be presented by Mr. President during his address to the National Assembly.”

The Minister went on to disclose adjustments made to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) benchmarks by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). “The approved MTEF had an exchange rate of N700 to $1 and a benchmark crude oil price of $73.96 per barrel. However, in a bid to generate additional funds for priority areas, the FEC has revised the MTEF and Fiscal Policy Framework. The updated benchmarks include an exchange rate of N750 to $1 and a benchmark crude oil reference price of $77.96, reflecting a $4 increase from the initial approval.”

Highlighting the significance of these changes, the minister emphasized, “These adjustments will significantly boost government revenue, which President intends to allocate towards supporting key sectors such as Health, Education, infrastructure, security, and other developmental areas.”

Addressing financial matters further, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, revealed that the Council greenlit a $1bn budget support loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB). “This concessionary loan, with an interest rate of 4.2 per cent over 25 years and an eight-year moratorium, is aimed at providing general budget support and improving forex availability in the country. The funds will support ongoing economic reforms, focusing on the power sector, social inclusion, and fiscal policy reforms as part of a comprehensive sector policy initiative.”

Edun also touched upon the government’s tax initiatives, stating, “The Fiscal Policy and Tax Reform Committee, after approximately 90 days of work, has proposed initial reforms to boost the fiscal situation through digitalization, enhanced efficiency, and rationalization of existing taxes. Their target is to increase the tax-revenue-to-GDP ratio to 18 per cent, aligning with the African average.”

The Finance Minister shared insights into other economic measures under consideration and highlighted that the Federal Executive Council has approved a total limit of N2tn for use by the Ministry of Finance. This allocation aims to allow the ministry to navigate the market efficiently, potentially reducing interest rates on outstanding debt and saving an estimated N50bn or more in debt servicing over time through cost-effective refinancing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ali Barde Umoru, the Secretary of Research and Information at the National Assembly, confirmed on Monday that Bola Tinubu is scheduled to present the appropriation bill to the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Anticipating the budget presentation, Tinubu had forwarded the 2024 – 2026 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper to both chambers of the National Assembly three weeks ago. The proposal outlined a total expenditure of N26.1 trillion for the 2024 fiscal year.

Following two weeks of interactive sessions with heads of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies on revenue and expenditure projections, the Senate’s committee on Finance approved the MTEF. The Senate specifically endorsed the N26.1 trillion proposed for the 2024 budget, along with other parameters as presented by the President. This included new borrowings of N7.8 trillion, a benchmark oil price of $73.96, and a daily oil production volume of 1.78 million barrels.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, also confirmed that Bola Tinubu would present the 2024 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the National Assembly. During the opening of a one-day capacity-building retreat for chairmen and deputy chairmen of House committees in Abuja, Speaker Abbas revealed plans to hold a town hall meeting with stakeholders on the 2024 Appropriation Bill. This initiative aims to gather the inputs of Nigerians on the budget process, aligning with the House’s commitment to citizens’ greater participation in the democratic process.

As part of this commitment, Abbas stated, “As we expect to receive the 2024 Appropriation Bill in a few days, I wish to state that the House will convene a Budget Town Hall Meeting to enable citizens to make inputs into the 2024 Appropriation. It is the first time such an engagement is planned at the national level.” He invited partners to collaborate in preparing for an inclusive budget process and urged committees to expedite their considerations within two weeks to ensure the swift passage of the 2024 budget.

Addressing the challenges faced by the committees, Abbas emphasized the need for adequate funding to undertake robust oversight, hire experts and consultants, conduct inspection visits, and draft quality legislation. He highlighted the role of the National Assembly in ensuring accountability and representation in governance, emphasizing the importance of a strong House in a parliamentary democracy.

Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu echoed the significance of the House of Representatives in representing the will of the Nigerian people in the country’s parliamentary democracy. Chief of Staff to President Tinubu, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, urged leaders and committee members to unite during budgetary proposal scrutiny sessions.

In the midst of concerns about potential challenges in implementing the January-December budget cycle, Oluwole Oke, a member of the House representing Ede South/Ede North/Ejigbo Federal Constituency in Osun State under the Peoples Democratic Party, has sought to allay fears. Oke, who also chairs the House Committee on Judiciary, offered reassurance by highlighting that the delay in presenting the budget could be attributed to the meticulous approach taken by President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic team.

In an exclusive conversation with The PUNCH, Oke emphasized the professionalism of President Buhari and his team, stating, “Mr. President and his economic team, as assembled, are professionals, and I am sure they want to do a thorough job, more so that they’re just coming on board. I think we should give him the benefit of doubt. The parliament is also ready to give the budget accelerated consideration and passage in the interest of Nigerians.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, Sunday Umeha, the representative for Ezeagu/Udi Federal Constituency in Enugu State under the Labour Party, suggested that the perceived delay might actually turn out to be a blessing for the benefit of Nigerians. Both lawmakers expressed confidence in the commitment of the government and the readiness of the parliament to ensure a swift and effective budget process.

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