Senate suspends work on 2017 budget, summons ministers

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Crisis is brewing between the National Assembly and the Federal Government over the 2017 budget.

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The Senate has suspended work on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) and invited Budget and Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma as well as Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun to brief its leadership on key areas of the budget.

In a letter dated October 19, 2016, signed by the Senate Leader Ali Ndume, the minister of finance is expected to appear and brief the Senate leadership on some key issues contained in the twin documents.

Among other things, the Senate is requesting the draft copy of the Medium Term Development Plan, upon which the 2017-2019 MTEF is based.

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It is also seeking a comprehensive report on the implementation of the 2016 budget as at September 30, 2016.

Specifically, the Senate demanded: “All fiscal rates, taxes, charges used to drive the projected revenue in the 2017-2019 MTEF. A report on the structure/composition of the debt, funding, sources, how the borrowed funds are to be spent, as well as repayment plan and schedule.”

In a related development, the Federal Government has appealed to the African Development Bank (AfDB) to fast-track the release of the $1billion long-term loan it pledged to secure for the country.The loan is expected to cover the 35 per cent shortfall in the 2016 budget.

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Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who made the request when a delegation of the bank met him at the weekend, said the speedy release of the loan would enable the government to pursue the full implementation of the budget.

The AfDB had made a pledge to assist Nigeria in securing a $1billion loan facility to augment the deficit in the 2016 budget.Udo Udoma, while briefing the delegation of the plan to reflate the economy, said the Federal Government was determined to contain the militancy in the Niger Delta affecting oil production, which would enable it to restore crude production to 2.2 million barrels per day before the end of the year.

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He added that government is committing money into infrastructure development, processing of export zones, and also providing loans through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at a single digit to support farming in Nigeria.

The Director General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze said that what the government is doing differently concerning budget releases, is that it has shifted from the old practice of releasing monies quarterly but on specific request which are tied to projects.

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