The Federal Government said it cannot fully implement the N6.06 trillion 2015 budget as passed by the National Assembly and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Babachir David Lawal, told a joint Senate committee on Appropriations, Finance and Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions that the government’s revenues had dropped by 50 to 60 per cent, contrary to projections.
The SGF was invited by the Senate to explain his comment that the 2016 constituency projects as captured in the budget would not be implemented.
He pointedly blamed the drop in revenue on attacks on oil facilities by militants in the Niger Delta.
Lawal noted that the oil benchmark of $38 per barrel fixed by the Federal Government had been drastically dislocated.
On whether he said that constituency projects would not be implemented, Lawal said: “The statement is correct. That is my statement; we cannot guarantee the implementation of constituency projects in the 2016 budget. As a government, constituency projects are championed by members of the National Assembly. Like the legislature, members of the executive are politicians who canvassed for votes.
“Lawmakers are aware that oil barrels had dwindled to about 800,000 per day. This has led to the inability of government to finance the budget. It is the duty of government to prepare the minds of Nigerians ahead that there will be challenges in implementing the budget.”
“Government based its principle on zero budgeting this year. Funds will be released to finance key projects in line with the implementation plans of the government. I will explain why it will be hard for the government to implement the budget.
“I spoke with the Minister of Budget this morning (yesterday) and I asked him the revenue base of the government. We are now receiving about 50 to 60 (per cent) earnings from what we projected.”
Lawal added: “Some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) might find it impossible to implement projects appropriated in their budgets. We have to re-prioritize. I like us to understand that this is the background upon which I made that statement. ”
The SGF noted that he knew the comments might not be pleasant to the legislature or the citizenry.
He insisted that MDAs are facing challenges in implementing the budget based on the funds available to them.
The SGF complained that the invitation to him to appear before the committee was too short.
He also expressed dissatisfaction with the wording of the invitation.
The SGF claimed that it appeared that he was being threatened.
He said: “I only saw this letter this morning. I thought it was going to be Wednesday next week.
I wanted my permanent secretary to write to request for another date, knowing that Wednesdays are for Federal Executive Council meetings. You gave me very short time to prepare.
“Taking together the lateness of the letter and the threat at the bottom of it shows that it was not done in good faith. We should respect each other and give each other the time to appear.”
Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee Chairman Senator Samuel Anyanwu replied him.
He said: “This is a joint committee meeting. Our committee days are usually Wednesdays.
The Senate is expected to go on recess next week Wednesday and because of the urgency of the issue, we had to send the letter. We want the aspect of that your statement withdrawn.”
Committee on Finance Chairman Senator John Enoh also demanded a retraction of what the SGF said.
Enoh said: “We take exception to the word ‘bad faith’. The comments imply that the Senate committee in extending an invitation to you acted in bad faith. If we sent the letter to you in bad faith, it means you are also here in bad faith.”
But the SGF insisted: “The freedom of expression is a right. While I excuse your position, but I want you to note the threat in your letter. I want to put it on record that you forced me to withdraw my statement.”
The Senate on Tuesday summoned the SGF to appear before its joint committees, following a motion moved by Senator Matthew Urhoghide.