Why Buhari turned down $1b Ajaokuta completion fund bill, seven others

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President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent to the Ajaokuta Steel Company Fund Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly. The bill was transmitted to the Presidency in February.

The Bill stipulated that the Federal Government should set aside $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the immediate completion of the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company.

Buhari also withheld assent to seven other bills passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to him.

Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday read separate letters which informed the upper chamber about the President Buhari’s decision to withhold assent to the bills.

The President cited several reasons, including infractions on extant laws, duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies, to financial constraints for his decision to decline assent to the bills.

In a letter dated March 19, President Buhari explained that he declined assent to the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill because “appropriating $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account” as decided by the National Assembly, “is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.”

The letter reads: “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 seek 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 dated March 27, Buhari cited provisions of Section 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as reasons for his refusal to assent to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill.

He said: “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) a one per cent levy on imports which will also add to the cost of doing business in the country , (iii), a five per cent 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 noted 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.

He said: “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 re-current expenditure by the proposed creation of new public sector bodies.”

Other affected Bills include the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018; Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2018; Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018; the National Housing Fund Bill 2018;, National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018 and National Bio- Technology Development Agency Bill 2018.

On each bill, President Buhari gave his reasons for withholding assent.

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Samson Gbenga Salau [Editorial Board Adviser] Gbenga Samuel Salau is a professional journalist with over 17 years experience in journalism, he is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. On completion of his youth service, he joined The Guardian as a freelance journalist and was later absorbed as a staff. While in the University, he was a campus journalist reporting for the Independence Hall and Faculty of Arts Press Clubs. As a campus journalist, he won the following awards; Independence Hall Press Best News writer; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best News Reporter/Writer; First Runner-up, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism; Association of Faculty of Arts Students’ Press Best Reporter; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Political Writer; Winner, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism, and University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Interviewer. He served the Association of Communication and Language Arts Students, as the Public Relation Officer, the same year he was appointed the News Editor of the Association of Faculty of Arts Students Press. The following session, he was made the General Editor, and a member of the 13-man University of Ibadan Students’ Union Transition Committee. As a reporter in The Guardian, in 2014, he won the Promasidor Quill Award Best Report on Nutrition and DAME Business Reporting category. In the 2015 edition of the Promasidor Quill Award, he won the best Report on Nutrition and Brand Advocate Categories, while in 2016, he won the NMMA Print Journalist of the Year, first runner-up Golden Pen Reporter of the Year and SERAs CSR Awards. Gbenga Salau loves traveling, reading, and listening to songs with good lyrics no matter the genre.

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