Finally, Buhari signs 2016 budget

*President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.

*President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

06 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Houston, Texas – President Muhammadu Buhari has finally signed the 2016 budget, after several weeks of holding out due to disagreements with aspects of the budget passed by the National Assembly.

According to sources from the Presidency, the budget was signed, with vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and the chairmen of the National Assembly appropriation committees in attendance.

The assent of the signature comes after the National Assembly submitted a clean copy of the budget to the president who had withheld signature after some alterations were noticed in the document.

The government announced yesterday it had mapped out 34 strategic priority programmes and projects it intended to achieve with the 2016 budget.

These include a capital spend minimum of 30% annually, an appropriate and predictable exchange regime by the end of 2016, increased the low-interest lending rate of 9%, self-sufficiency in tomato paste in 2016 and rice production by 2018.

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed disclosed this to reporters after a cabinet meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

She said President Muhammadu Buhari was expected to receive the corrected version of the budget details from the National Assembly today or tomorrow.
Sources said the President would sign the budget.

The minister said the 34 specific areas, which were grouped into four major objectives are governance and security; diversification of the economy; creating support for the poor and the vulnerable: as well as reflating the economy through investment.

She added that they were presented with “clear deliverables, targets, and indicators to ensure that ministries, departments, and Agencies deliver on implementation.”

According to the minister, the 34 priority areas needed to be implemented in 2016‎ are categorised into thematic areas are:

* To achieve and maintain a capital spend minimum of 30 percent annually with the objective to reflect the economy and enhance employment generation capacity for the productive sector.

* To achieve an appropriate exchange regime to achieve a predictable exchange rate by the end of 2016.

* To increase low-interest lending to the real sector at single digit “maybe nine percent” in order to increase output and growth.

* (On diversifying the economy) To attain self-sufficiency in tomato paste in 2016 and rice production by 2018.

Nigeria spent $2.41 billion on rice importation between January 2012 and May 2015 and another $1bn on tomato paste importation.

*To increase local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock and to stop import. The deadline for these to be announced later in the year.

*To expand the agro- allied sector to intensify local production of cassava, cocoa, cashew nuts, fruits and sesame seeds.

* To make use of 5,000 hectares arable land ‎in 12 River Basin Development Authorities and to utilise 22 dams for commercial farming.

Priorities under power, rails and road
*To optimise up to 7,000 megawatts installed capacity with the associated infrastructure in order to enhance investment, productivity, and employment.

*To complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta ‎railway lines in 2016.

*To commence the construction of the Lagos – Kano standard gauge rail line and also to finalize the negotiation regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line.
The objective of this is to increase the availability of mass transit, to relief pressure on road infrastructure.

*To undertake the rehabilitation and construction of 31 major projects and restore the degraded sections of some major high ways and improve connectivity over a distance of 210,093 kilometres through public works maintenance, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and other interventions.

*To adopt and execute comprehensive national oil and gas policy which is supposed to be the road map for the petroleum industry development diversification as well as privatisation.

*Sets a three-year deadline to achieve self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products‎ and to become a net exporter of petroleum products.

*To push for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

*(Ease of doing business) Sets target to move 20 places up the ranking from 169 to 149 by fast-tracking business approvals, acquisition of land titles, issuance of visas for persons seeking to come into the country do business.

*To invest in the lives of our people by implementing various social projects covering health and education.

* Government to rehabilitate 5,000 primary health centres in 5,000 wards this year to deliver affordable health care services to Nigerians as close as possible to their homes.

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