President Muhammadu Buhari will not sign the budget sent to him on Thursday by the national assembly until certain issues are resolved.
The details of the controversial 2016 budget had been transmitted to him and he promised to go through them before appending his signature.
However, after the budget was scrutinised by the cabinet at an emergency meeting on Friday, it was noticed that some key aspects considered to be government’s core infrastructural focus had been removed.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the designated head of the economic team, presided over the meeting, with Buhari absent without any official explanation.
The president had wanted to assent to the budget before travelling to China on Sunday, but his foot soldiers will now have to engage with the leadership of the national assembly in a fresh round of discussions to effect some amendments.
some of the contentious areas.
The coastal railway project, for which the president is travelling to China for a loan, was completely removed by the legislators.
Nigeria was to make a counterpart funding of N60 billion, but the lawmakers appear to have struck out the project.
The federal government is working on two major rail arteries, among other rail projects, to service the northern and eastern part of the country, namely the Lagos-Kano line and the Calabar-Lagos line.
But while the Lagos-Kano provision was left untouched, the Calabar-Lagos line was removed.
Also, the cabinet believes the N8.7 billion reduction in the amount proposed for the completion of the Idu-Kaduna rail project, which has reached an advanced stage, will make it difficult for the project to be completed.
The completion of road projects is also a source of worry to the cabinet.
While provisions were made for the completion of all major road projects across the country, the national assembly reduced the amounts provided and instead included new roads whose studies have not even been conducted.
“The amounts provided by the national assembly for the projects can neither complete the on-going road projects nor the new ones proposed. At the end of the year no significant progress would have been made,” a source in the know of the deliberations told TheCable.
In the health sector, proposals were made for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns such as Polio and AIDS, because the stock is fast depleting, but these were removed.
Instead, allocations were made for the purchase of ambulances – even though the ministry of health did not make such a proposal.
“It was also observed that certain provisions made in the areas of agriculture and water resources to further the federal government’s diversification project were either removed or reduced while the funds were moved to provision of rural health facilities and boreholes, for which provisions have been made elsewhere,” the source added.
A presidency official said Buhari “is hopeful” that these observations would have been resolved by the time he returns from China so that the budget can take off “immediately”.