If the issues plaguing the 2013 Appropriation Act are not resolved by the Federal Government and the National Assembly, federal civil servants might not receive their salaries from September, and the economy will ground to a halt.
This was the warning that came from the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday on a radio programme, Political Platform, monitored on Ray Power FM in Lagos.
President Goodluck Jonathan forwarded a bill amending the earlier 2013 budget of N4.987 trillion to the National Assembly four months ago, an action the lawmakers are not favourably disposed to. Rather, the National Assembly is asking the presidency, through correspondence that was communicated to the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation sometime in June, to immediately commence work on the 2014 Appropriation Bill.
Okonjo-Iweala stated that though the situation did not seem too bad, the country’s economic activities might ground to a halt as government might fail to live up to its economic obligations to the people.
She also denied speculations in some quarters that the country is broke, saying the country is rather witnessing financial cash flow that is not too serious.
She said, “We have been able to implement the budget to a state that we now discovered that there has to be some amendment; so Mr President sent the amendments to the National Assembly. I think we can continue for a little while longer; we need the amendment to pass because come September or October we may not be able to pay salaries.”
Stating that the executive arm of government was employing dialogue and consultation with the National Assembly on the issue, the minister added that N46billion would be utilised for payment of salaries.
According to her, the main issue relates to a differential in moneys used for some sundry other items aside from those spelt out in the Act which will have to be covered. “That means that in those categories that they were removed, we may not be able to achieve such goals.
“One important part of the amendment is the salary that was moved out of that category to other subheads, which has to be restored: we need to restore N36bn for salary that was carried out so that the country will not shut down,” she said.
Meanwhile, the President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Lanre Ajayi reacted to the Minister’s statements, saying, “If the government does not have money to back up its commitment and policies enunciated in the budget, then there is going to be dislocation in the economy. The citizenry will be affected because government controls the economy. It is not only that, government contractors will also be affected as well as civil servants who expect to earn their salaries. It will have a chain reaction affect government, its contractors, workers and even telecommunications subscribers who depend on government, they won’t have enough money to recharge their phones.
“It is important that the issue is resolved so that the country can move forward,” Ajayi concluded.
On his part, Mr. Babatunde Omoju, maritime industry player, expert and analyst stated that the non-passage of the budget by National Assembly would impact more on the public sector since there is more private sector participation than public sector in maritime business in Nigeria. “Some of the government agencies and parastatal in the maritime industry such as the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) may be affected. However, the situation may have a secondary effect on the private sector participants in the area of getting contracts from these government agencies because they have no allocations to work with.