President Goodluck Jonathan inexplicably failed to perform the yearly ritual of reading the budget to the joint sitting of the National Assembly.
The only other time when the President failed to present the budget was in 2009 when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent the 2010 estimates to the National Assembly through his adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Muhammed Abba Aji. Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala first laid the document wrapped in the national colours of green and white on the table at the Senate before the House of Representatives.
She gave reporters an insight into the contents of the document.
The expected revenue for the period is N3.73trillion; N1.1trillion is for capital expenditure, she said.
The N1.1trillion for capital expenditure represents 27 per cent of the budget. The recurrent expenditure of N3.5 trillion represents 72 per cent.
According to her, the N4.6 trillion is exclusive of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) funds, which is about N168.37b.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said: “Aggregate expenditure, excluding SURE – P funds, is about N4.6 trillion and the revenue is about N3.73 trillion.
“The capital is about N1.1trillion and makes up about 27 per cent of the budget. The balance, of course, is the recurrent and it is about 72 per cent of the budget.
“The distinguishing feature between the 2013 budget and the 2014 budget is the focus we have on really continuing the successes that we had in 2013 on creating jobs for young Nigerians. We are going to push it.”
The Minister said: “This budget is the budget for job creation and inclusive growth, meaning that it is a budget which will continue the President’s Transformation Agenda for several sectors of the economy.
“The budget is going to support the push in agriculture. It will kick-start the housing sector where we can create more jobs.
“It is designed to our policies that would support manufacturing because jobs would be created there.
“Industries will also be created in solid minerals. All these support will continue to be unleashed.
“Job creation is the key to really solving the problems of the Nigerian economy. All the programmes that create jobs are very well supported. The SURE-P is also part of it. Community service programmes would be pushed. The YOUWIN programme will be pushed.
“The infrastructure development is part of it. The Hon. Minister of transport is here, we have been working on rail development.
“Ministry of Niger Delta is also part of the infrastructure development, Water Resources, FCT development and so on.
“We have privatised power but we will be working on the transmission to direct resources there.
“The distinguishing thing is that it’s a continuation of what we have done before, but with more emphasis on really pushing out jobs and also supporting safety nets that can further redistribute income to poor people in the country.”
On the reason for the lower budget estimates for 2014 as against that of 2013, she said: “You can understand that we have some revenue challenges, which we had been very clear on all along because of the losses we suffered in terms of oil revenue. And also the losses from non- oil revenue due to the lower customs duties.
“As you know, because we had a policy of trying to grow our own rice, we put higher tariffs on rice and, therefore, the importation of rice this year was low. I’m just using that as an example. Customs duties collected is lower. So, for both oil and non-oil revenue.
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba moved a motion that the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance be allowed to lay the budget – in line with Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Minority Leader Senator George Akume seconded the motion.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was promptly ushered into the Senate chamber by the Sergeant-At-Arms. She was accompanied by some ministers.
The fanfare associated with budget presentation was missing.
The Senate merely discharged the Minister and her entourage without any comment on the estimates, after she had laid the document on the table.
But, the laying of the budget in the House of Representatives was not without some drama.
At exactly 12:19, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal announced that it was time to allow the Minister to lay the 2014 budget before the House.
Mrs. Okonjo- Iweala, in a maroon native outfit with her trademark headgear, was let into the chamber at 12:24. With her were some ministers.
House Leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande moved that the Minister be invited to lay the budget. The motion was seconded by Leo Ogor. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala did and won the applause of House members as she bowed copiously before the Speaker and before the members.
She then shook hands with the Speaker and the leadership.
No sooner had she shaken hands with the leader of the opposition, Femi Gbajabiamila, when a chant of APC! APC! APC!” rent the air.
Almost immediately, PDP members began their own version of the chant. This went on for minutes, until the minister left the chamber.
No fewer than 37 House members defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Wednesday, dumping the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,
*Onyedi Ojiabor, Sanni Onogu, Victor Oluwasegun and Dele Anofi, the Nation