By Marcus Ikechukwu
The Federal Government has settled for early transmission of the 2023 budgetary appropriations to the National Assembly this Friday.
Although the government still has a window of a few weeks to do the presentation, the budget proposal was thoroughly scrutinized at Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, gave a clue when he addressed State House Correspondents after the week’s meeting but kept details of the figures to his heart.
The Presidential spokesman jokingly said Wednesday’s FEC of today was a one-item meeting.
He cleverly avoided disclosing if Council approved the budgetary figures precisely as proposed by the Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning but noted that those required to fine-tune all its aspects were asked to make all necessary imputes and make it ready for the President’s presentation, scheduled for Friday.
“Good afternoon, colleagues and friends. It was virtually one item for the Executive Council meeting in which the budget proposals for 2023 were presented and discussed at length.
“That budget proposal will be taken to the National Assembly on Friday morning by Mr President. So, it will not be proper to discuss the contents of what will be officially presented on Friday.
“So, that is the information I have for us; we won’t have the traditional briefing of what happened at the Council because it’s about a budget that will be presented on Friday morning. We’ll want to give the National Assembly that honour of receiving it first”, he said.
Asked when it would be appropriate for the Executive to present the Budget proposals to Nigerians and whether FEC gave it’s approval for the document to be presented to the National Assembly, the Presidential spokesman said the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning would give a breakdown after the presentation had been down before the Legislature.
“You know, usually after the budget has been presented, there will be a breakdown by the Minister of Finance. So, it will not be proper to begin to unveil what is being taken to the National Assembly on Friday,” he said.
On whether it was approved by Council, he said, “what was done was that it was discussed extensively and there were inputs, whichever input needs to be reflected before Friday will be done and then presented to the National Assembly.
“Let me tell you, you’ll have the Revised 2023/2025 Fiscal Framework. You will have an Expenditure Profile. You’ll have Budget Proposal, Aggregate Expenditure, Overhead Costs, Personnel costs, Capital Expenditure and so on.
“So, all those things have been discussed, and where they needed to tweak some of the projections, that has been done. The final approved copy will be presented by the President on Friday”, he said.
Asked about the status of the nation’s debt profile, he said, “all those are things that are in the budget, it will not be fair. My brief is to let you know that the budget was discussed at length, all the details. But as a mark of respect for the National Assembly, which will receive it on Friday, it’s not prudent to begin to give out this information”.
Meanwhile, Adesina explained why the FEC had not resumed full membership attendance the way it was a pre-COVID-19 era, saying this is being guided by the Presidential Committee on the pandemic.
“You have to follow the protocols, as done by the steering committee on COVID-19 and the last protocols they announced was that when you are in an open place, you are at liberty to do without your mask, but when you are in an enclosed place, then it is advisable to still use your mask.
“The Council Chambers is enclosed, there are, I think 42 ministers, by the time 42 ministers congregate there, along with other Cabinet Office staff, it’s becoming choked. Then it may not be advisable to have a full-blown physical meeting yet, but I’m sure we’ll get to that point”, he explained.
He also disclosed that the issue of 19 states without Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) had come before the President and is receiving consideration.
Among those attending the meeting physically are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
Also present are Ministers of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, Finance Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello and Education, Adamu Adamu.
Others are the Ministers of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, and Ministers of State for Agriculture, Mustapha Shehuri, Budget and National Planning Clement Agba and Environment, Udi Odum.
Other cabinet members participated virtually from their respective offices in Abuja.