A fresh row may be in the offing between the Executive and the Legislative arms of government over the 2017 budget.

This is because the Presidency appears not to be in a hurry to assent to the 2017 Appropriation Bill, which the National Assembly passed late last week, Vanguard learned from a top federal official last night.

However, Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the Presidential Economic Management Team, EMT, have commenced a review of the 2017 budget, even without the details of the Appropriation Bill at their disposal yet. But one of the top officials of the Federal Government expressed fears that the budget had been ‘altered’ in many ways by the lawmakers after spending more than five months deliberating on the document.

With N143bn added to Buhari’s figure, the official questioned where the lawmakers got N143 billion which they added to the original figure submitted to them by the President and the additional N10 billion added to the budget of the National Assembly at a time the government was reeling under hardship.

The official, who did not want his name in print, also questioned why the NASS unilaterally made substantial reductions from capital provisions for some strategic projects spread across the country and moved the money to some unspecified projects that are under the control of states and local governments.

According to the source, “that is why we fear that the distortions in this year’s budget may be more than those noticed in 2016 budget and the government may have to spend some time to study the budget so as not to make any mistake that may put it into crisis with the Nigerian people. Notwithstanding the long period the budget has been with the NASS, the Federal Government will have to take some time to review the budget and see the extent to which it has been altered and determined whether such alterations are significant or marginal and whether we can ignore them and move on or call for a review.”

A scrutiny of the budget passed by the National Assembly reveals that apart from increasing the figure submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari last December, the National Assembly has also moved a lot of money from both capital and recurrent votes to projects that states and local governments should handle under the Concurrent and Residual lists.

Meanwhile, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, and the Presidential Economic Management Team, EMT, have commenced a review of the 2017 budget, even without the details of the Appropriation Bill at their disposal yet. A critical element of the review, however, was to shore up revenues for the funding of the budget. While the document is yet to reach the Presidential Villa, the Presidency has already started its review. To realize the funding objective, the EMT also set up a committee to work out the modalities.

In a tweet during the regular Monday meeting of the EMT, presided over by the Acting President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, spokesman to Osinbajo, Mr. Laolu Akande, stated that the budget was one of the issues the meeting deliberated upon. “Acting President Osinbajo presiding over economic Management Team reviewing major issues in 2017 budget and others. In attendance are ministers and CBN gov,” Akande tweeted.

Speaking to journalists at the end of the meeting, Akande said while a copy of the budget was being awaited, the EMT had taken proactive measures to ensure optimal performance. “The EMT discussed the funding of the budget so that we can hit the ground running, once we receive the budget formally and sign it. That was what was discussed in relation to the budget, revenues, loans etc. There are basically ongoing discussions. There is a smaller group in the EMT that is responsible for the funding and it is just an ongoing discussion,” Akande said.

The EMT is chaired by the Acting President and has the ministers of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah as members, alongside Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Directors General of the Budget Office, Debt Management Office and other relevant agencies.

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