By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.
The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved the timetable for the 2017 national budget.
This was even as the fate of the 2016 budget which has been mirred in controversy leading to President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign it into law more than two weeks after the bill was passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly, still hangs in the balance.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting presided over by President Buhari at Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, said the idea was to ensure that the document got to the National Assembly in good time for early passage.
He said: “To make sure that 2017 budget is done on time, a timetable was approved for the 2017 budget”.
On the 2016 budget which the President is yet to assent to, the Minister said the executive and the leadership of the National Assembly were still talking.
“On the 2016 budget, we are still talking,” Udoma said in a terse response to a question on when the appropriation bill would be signed.
Also briefing on the outcome of Buhari’s recent visit to the Peoples Republic of China, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, denied that Nigeria did not enter into any currency swap deal with China.
According to him, what happened was that China was only internationalizing its currency in response to the size of its economy.
He said: “It’s not really a swap. What it takes is that as the Chinese economy goes strong, there is some pressure on them from the trading partners, international financial institutions.
“They agreed that the money should be internationalized. So, they started that for a while. They were protecting it also. They did not allow it to be fully exchangeable. But now, their economy is fully strong, they are looking for a way to internationalize the currency.
“Now, they were saying essentially that they wanted to segment it. For Southern Africa, South Africa is going to be the sort of a hub for the currency. So, they are going to be the focal point for the Chinese to make that available for trade in that area.
“In west Africa, they are looking for a hub. Ghana is interested in being the hub for the currency to circulate it for those who want to use it. It is not compulsory. But Nigeria is a bigger country with bigger economy. So that does make sense. And they became a kind of attracted to Nigeria to be the hub.
“So, for us, the benefit is that it gives us small flexibility. So, if Nigeria is buying Chinese goods, for instance, it will be in our interest to use the Yuan because we know there is a lot of squeeze for the dollar. But we still use the dollar. But if it is not enough and there are some people who want to invest in the country, instead of crying that they cannot take dollar out, there might be Yuan that they would be happy to take out because it is now internationalized as a currency and they can use it.
“So, it gives us a much larger option. As you know, a lot of importers now are complaining that they are not able to access the dollars to buy good and things like that. So, if we have in addition to dollar, we have Yuan, then they can also make it available.
“So, it has given us a greater opportunity for our economy so that those people can also now import notwithstanding the shortage of dollars. So, that is really what it’s more about rather than a swap deal or any such thing.”
He listed the benefits of President Buhari’s China visit to include assitance to Nigeria in the areas of defence and agriculture among others.
FG approves 2017 budget timetable …Says no date yet for signing of 2016 bill, denies currency swap deal with China
By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.