….Says $1bn from ECA to fund coy unrealistic
Hope of reviving the long moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company, Itakpe in Kogi State in the nearest future, was dashed yesterday when President Muhammadu Buhari refused assent to the bill seeking for fund for completion of company forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February this year.
Specifically, Buhari said the $1billion from the Excess Crude Account, ECA as requested for in the bill by the federal lawmakers, is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.
The President also declined assents to seven other bills forwarded to him by the upper legislative chamber in February this year.
In separate letters to that effect read during a short plenary yesterday by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Buhari cited several reasons ranging from infractions on extant laws, duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies, to financial constraints for refusing assents on the bills.
The President in his refusal of assent to the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill as stated a letter dated 19th March, 2018, said appropriating $1billion from the Excess Crude Account, ECA as requested for in the bill by the federal lawmakers, is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.
He said: “The Nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long term social and economic impact that the funds can be alternatively deployed towards.
“Bills which seeks to make appropriation of revenues to fund public expenditure should be consolidated in the annual Appropriation Act such that these proposals pass through the traditional scrutiny that budget proposals are subjected to by the Ministry of Finance , Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.
“Furthermore, as the Excess Crude Account Funds belong to the Federation, it would be proper to consult with the National Economic Council where the States are represented.
“Relevant stakeholders such as the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development, Industry, Trade and Investment were not fully consulted.
“The inputs of key stakeholders are necessary to create the optimal legal and regulatory framework as well as institutional mechanism to adequately regulate the steel sector”.
In another letter of refusal of assent dated 27th March , 2019, President Buhari cited provisions contained in section 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as the major reason for refusing assent to it.
“Section 32 of the Bill , introduces (I) a 2.5% levy on the profit before tax of the target companies which will increase the tax burdens of the companies while offering no direct benefit to them : (ii) a1% levy on imports which will also add to the cost of doing business in the country , (iii), a 5% levy on luxury goods which duplicates efforts by the Federal Ministry of Finance to raise excise on such goods in a more sustainable manner to the benefit of the Federal Government treasury”, he said.
He added that if signed into law, the Agency will have similar objectives to the Bank of Industry particularly with regard to the funding of Small and Medium Enterprises.
“Accordingly , it is important to streamline its functions to avoid a duplication or overlap of functions with other government institutions performing similar functions aside the likelihood of increasing public recurrent expenditure by the proposed creation of new public sector bodies”, he added.
Other bills decline assents by the President at through separate letters forwarded to that effect to the Senate are , the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria ( Establishment) Bill 2018 and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018.
Others are , the National Housing Fund Bill 2018 , National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018 and National Bio- Technology Development Agency Bill 2018.