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Why I declined assent to Ajaokuta complex bill, 7 others – Buhari

Why I declined assent to Ajaokuta complex bill, 7 others – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has refused assent to the bill seeking funds for the completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February, this year.

The president also declined assents to seven other bills forwarded to him by the federal lawmakers in February, this year.

In separate letters to that effect which were read on the floor of the Senate Tuesday by the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, President 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 in a letter dated March 19, 2018, said appropriating $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), as requested for in the bill by the lawmakers, "is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints."

"The nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long-term social and economic impacts 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 of refusal of assent dated March 27, 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 further said 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 from the likelihood of increasing public recurrent expenditure by the proposed creation of new public sector bodies."

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