Why I declined assent to Ajaokuta complex bill, 7 others – Buhari


Rejects NASS debt figures for states

PresidentMuhammadu Buhari has refusedassent to the bill seeking funds for the completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February, this year.
The president also declined assentsto seven other bills forwarded to him by the federal lawmakers in February, this year.

In separate letters to that effect which were read on the floor of the Senate Tuesday by the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, PresidentBuhari cited several reasons ranging from infractions on extant laws, duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies,to financial constraintsfor refusing assents on the bills.

The president in his refusal of assent to the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill as stated in a letter dated March 19, 2018, said appropriating $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), as requested for in the bill by the lawmakers, is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.

The nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long-term social and economic impacts that the funds can be alternatively deployed towards.
Bills which seek to make appropriation of revenues to fund public expenditure should be consolidated in the annual Appropriation Act such that these proposals pass through the traditional scrutiny that budget proposals are subjected to by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.

Furthermore, as the Excess Crude Account Funds belong to the federation, it would be proper to consult with the National Economic Council where the states are represented. Relevant stakeholders such as the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development, Industry, Trade and Investment were not fully consulted.

The inputs of keystakeholders are necessary to create the optimal legal and regulatory framework as well as institutional mechanism to adequately regulate the steel sector.

In another letter of refusal of assent dated March 27, 2019, President Buhari cited provisions contained inSection 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as the major reason for refusing assent to it.

Section 32 of the Bill , introduces (i) a 2.5% levy on the profit before tax of the target companies which will increase the tax burdens of the companies while offering no direct benefit to them :(ii) a1% levy on imports which will also add to the cost of doing business in the country, (iii), a 5% levy on luxury goods which duplicates efforts by the Federal Ministry of Finance to raise excise on such goods in a more sustainable manner to the benefit of the Federal Government treasury.

He further said if signed into law, the Agency will have similar objectives to the Bank of Industry particularly with regard to the funding of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Accordingly, it is important to streamline its functions to avoid a duplication or overlap of functions with other government institutions performing similar functions aside from the likelihood of increasing public recurrent expenditure by the proposed creation of new public sector bodies.

Other bills

Other bills declined assents by the president at through separate letters forwarded to that effect to the Senate were the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2018 andFederal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018; the National Housing Fund Bill 2018; National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018, and the National Bio-Technology Development Agency Bill 2018.

NASS debt figures for states

In a related development, President Buhari for the second time has said the National Assembly inflated the debt figures to be repaid by the federal government to some states.

He asked the lawmakers to send details of the amounts they approved for Delta and Taraba states.

He said he would go ahead to pay the amount earlier approved by the federal executive council and not the National Assembly figure.

The debt repayment in promissory notes is for projects executed on behalf of the federal government by various state governments.

A promissory note is a debt instrument which one party promises in writing to pay a determinate sum of money to the other, either at a fixed or determinable future time, under specific terms.

His request was communicated via a letter which was read out by the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday.

In the letter, President Buhari stated that the total amount approved by the National Assembly to Delta and Taraba states was higher than the amount approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

He also said the National Assembly was not approving reimbursement to Bauchi and Kogi states after FEC approved reimbursements for them.

The letter read in part: I wish to inform the Senate that we have received the approval of the National Assembly via letter referenced NASS/CNA/106/volume11/004 dated 29th January 2019 for refunds to Delta and Taraba states through the issuance of a promissory note for projects executed on behalf of the federal government.

In view of the approval of the National Assembly, the following was observed: While the Federal Executive Council approved the total sum of N78 billion (78,601,631,430.16), as reimbursement to Delta and Taraba state governments, national assembly approved N90 billion (90,236,461,031.36) which is higher than the amount approved by the Federal Executive Council; the national assembly did not approve any reimbursement to Bauchi and Kogi states governments whereas the Federal Executive Council approved reimbursement for them.

The president reminded the lawmakers of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 which empowers the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to approve contracts, saying the amounts presented to the National Assembly were duly certified for reimbursement by the Bureau before they were approved by FEC.

Since the Bureau of Public Procurement is charged with the responsibility of approving contractual sums when there is a need for compliance with the Public Procurement Act 2007, I wish to request that you forward to us details relating to the amount approved by the national assembly for Delta and Taraba states in essence of what certified by the Bureau of Public Procurement for necessary certification approval.

Meanwhile, the federal government shall proceed with the implementation by reimbursing the amount approved by the federal executive council. Furthermore, I wish to suggest that you review their reimbursement in favour of Bauchi and Kogi state governments while looking forward to timely consideration of the request, he said.

Blueprintrecalls that this is the second time the president will accuse the National Assembly of inflating debts to be repaid to states.

He had in December 2018 accused the National Assembly of approving N488 billion as reimbursement to the state governments, while FEC approved 487 billion.He had also accused the lawmakers of approving reimbursements to 21 states after FEC approved reimbursements for 25 states.


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