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2016 Budget To Be Operational Soon – Osinbajo

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Sunday, May 1st, 2016
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Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said the 2016 Budget will go into effect in the next few days.

Osinbajo said this at the 12th edition of The Platform, a youth-based programme organised by Covenant Christian Centre in Abuja on Saturday.

He said, “We expect that the budget will go into operation in the next few days. We are all paying attention as Nigerians and we know exactly what is going on.”

Osinbajo urged Nigerians to be patient, adding that things would improve soon.

He added, “Many people have asked us ‘where is the change?’ ‘Is this the change we voted for?’ Even some fifth columnists in our midst have suggested, ‘bring back corruption,’ but let me say here for the record that the government of Muhammadu Buhari is completely and irrevocably committed to change.

“We believe that even though the early signs are confusing and discouraging, there has never been a better opportunity than now to turn things around. Today we have the best opportunity to bring change. Yes, this change can happen.”

Osinbajo explained that the reduction in the global price of crude oil affected the nation’s fortunes but revealed that the Buhari administration had already started diversifying the economy.

He said Nigeria had started investing heavily in rice production which would ultimately halt the importation of rice which costs the nation over N4bn annually.

The Vice-President said, “The demand for rice is about seven million metric tonnes. We produce only 2.7 metric tonnes. So, we import the difference. This means we spend between $4m and $5m every year on rice. So, how are we approaching it?

“We picked about 10 or 11 states that produce rice. For example, Kebbi State is a state that has always traditionally produced rice, but in the past one year, we started a scheme of empowering them with funds to double their production.

“In the last four months, Kebbi State had an investment of N7.5bn which was given directly to farmers for inputs and other services and now they are producing almost one million metric tonnes of rice. For a country that needs seven million metric tonnes of rice, if one state could produce one million, imagine the value of the rice which will be N63bn from an investment of N7.5bn.”

The Vice-President said the Buhari administration was fighting corruption seriously. He noted that many of the people being arrested and prosecuted were using ethnic sentiment and religion to promote their cause.

He urged Nigerians to support the government’s anti-graft war, adding that money was no longer being shared at Aso Rock.

Osinbajo said, “A few weeks ago, an old friend of mine came to visit me at the Villa. It was his first time anywhere near Aso Rock, but as he was about to leave, he said, ‘Aso Rock, so this is where they share our money.’ Let me ask you today to change that perception. It is a new day in Aso Rock. Today, I want you to have in your mind, the picture of the vice-president and ministers working in that same Aso Rock, day and night, keeping to high standards of integrity.”

Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH,  expressed optimism that the budget impasse would  be over “within hours.”

Saturday PUNCH had exclusively reported that the National Assembly would on Saturday (April 30) return budget details to the President.

But in the interview, Enang said, “To the best of my knowledge, as we speak, both the executive and the legislature are still working very, very hard on the budget.

“Both the executive and the legislature have shown the highest level of patriotism by making a lot of sacrifices to resolve all the issues involved.”

Responding to another question on a specific timeline, he said, “All those directly involved have been working all through the last 18 to 20 hours, they’ve barely had two hours of sleep. We are looking at a resolution in a matter of hours, we are still very hopeful.”

But investigations by Sunday PUNCH showed that the committee set up by the National Assembly to clear the “grey areas” in the budget details had yet to return the corrected version of the document to the executive as of Saturday evening.

A top government official who spoke with one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity, said the executive was still awaiting the document as of the time of filing this report.

The source also hinted that the President would not proceed to sign the budget immediately the document is received.

Rather, he said the procedure was that the committee set up by the Executive would also take time to scrutinise whatever is submitted.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who supervises the economy and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, are members of that committee.

The scrutiny, it was learnt, may take a process similar to the one carried out on the first details submitted by the National Assembly.

The source said the decision to sign the budget would then be taken based on the recommendation of the government’s committee after the scrutiny.

“As of now, the Executive has yet to receive the corrected details. When it is submitted, the committee set up by the government will look at it again vis-a-vis the grey areas identified.

“Once the committee is satisfied that the issues raised about the details had been addressed by the National Assembly, it will recommend that the President should go ahead and append his signature,” the source explained.

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