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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

House Suspends Debate On 2014 Budget Till Wednesday

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Teddy Oscar, Abuja

 

Debate on the 2014 Appropriation Bill on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday was suspended, as the speaker, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, adjourned sitting on the consideration of the 2014 Budget till next sitting on Wednesday.

 

During proceeding on the floor of the House, there were indications by the House that ‘a bill for an act to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation the total sum of N4,642,960,000,000 only’ would pass second reading on the floor.

 

This was sequel to the advice of the 6-man ad hoc committee on Hon. Emmanuel Jime’s point of order on the non-compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) by the executive arm of government in laying the 2014 Appropriation Bill in the House.

 

Reading the advice of the ad hoc committee on the floor of the House, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, chairman, committee on rules and business, said: “Hon. Jime’s point of order is well founded and sustainable. However, considering the sensitive nature of the Appropriation Bill, and in deference to overriding national interest, the House of Representatives should proceed with the consideration of the 2014 Appropriation Bill, while the minister of finance (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) is requested to comply fully with the mandatory provisions of Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act before the conclusion (of budget consideration).”

 

The advice was accepted by Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, speaker, who also ruled in its favour.

 

But in his debate, Hon. Suleiman Kawu, deputy minority leader, observed that Nigerians now look at the House as one that engages in empty exercise.

 

“Mr. Speaker and honourable colleagues Here we are again. Year-in-year-out, we gather in this hallow chamber to do a critic of money bills. This has been a legitimate tradition Nigerians now term as ‘mere rhetoric’, ‘noise without action’, and interestingly ‘empty exercise’,” he added.

 

Citing Section 16(2,C), which stipulates that “the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production an exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group..”, Kawu further warned that the little capital projects in the budget would bleed till another fiscal year, if government fails to meet its fiscal deficit financing plan.

 

“The proposals in this 2014 Appropriation Bill are in sharp contrast to this provision of the law. Despite promises to device ways of significantly increasing capital expenditure, the government had in the 2014 budget proposed to increase recurrent expenditure which has little or no impact on the lives of the people of Kano, which I represent and indeed the entire country. The proposed budget expenditure of N4.642 trillion is higher than the expected revenue of N3.731 trillion. So this budget comes with N912 billion fiscal deficit.

 

“The estimated fiscal deficit is 83% of the proposed total capital expenditure of N1.1 trillion. Mr. Speaker, honourable colleagues, this is voodoo economics. Should the government fail to meet its fiscal deficit financing plan, the little capital projects in the budget would bleed till another fiscal year,” he warned.

 

In her contribution, Hon. Rafeequat Onabamiro spoke on the negative allocations to the armed forces, water resources, among others in comparison to the amnesty programme.

 

“With the security challenges facing the country, are we saying that the amnesty programme is more important? This showed that something is fundamentally wrong with this budget,” she queried.

 

Hon. Khadija Bukar Ibrahim also raised concern for the allocation of paltry N2 billion to the North East Development Initiatives for the entire six states in the zone while the amnesty programme was allocated such huge fund.

 

But Hon. Tunji Ganiyu, who expressed concern over the debt profile of the country and the allocation over N700 billion to service it, said: “We should be very careful and stop playing politics with our gross domestic product (GDP) by over reducing it. Our MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) also needed to be enlightened on how to generate funds.”

 

In her contribution, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa said that care must be taken in appropriating funds for petroleum subsidies because there was no justification for it.

 

She particularly noted that appropriation was made for the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the nation’s refineries last year, but wondered why such huge amount would be allocated for subsidies while the refineries have nothing to show for the last TAM.

 

While advocating for blockage of wastages, citing the allocation of N700 billion to a hospital in the State House while tertiary teaching hospitals were allocated N300 billion, Dabiri-Erewa also questioned the purchase of aircrafts for the presidential fleet, as well as N7 billion proposed for the National Dialogue.

 

While she frowned at the continuous use of envelope system for budget preparation for MDAs, she asked her colleagues to do something about the impunity going on at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Hon. Abubakar Mommoh, on his part, who pointed out that the revelations of missing funds from tenth Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should not be swept under the carpet, observed that to service the nation’s debt with overN700 billion was unhealthy for any economy.

 

An attempt by Hon. Leo Ogor, deputy House leader, to stop Mommoh from talking about the missing funds was rebuffed by the speaker, who overruled Ogor’s point of order.

 

In continuation, Momoh said that, if the House cannot do anything about the missing fund, the anti-graft agencies should be involved in unravelling the mystery.

 

“It should be of worry to all Nigerians that, if the benchmark for crude was at $79 and it was selling for over $100 while our foreign reserve is dwindling,” he added.

 

In his argument of the budget which he described as budget of consolidation, Hon. Nicholas Ossai said that at the rate of 6.5 percent growth, the Nigerian economy is doing extremely well, considering the one digit inflation rate of 8.0 percent.

 

He also commended the President for allocating subsidies to 5 million farmers from each geo-political zone.

 

Hon. Sunday Karimi, in his support, was impressed with the budget proposal citing the allocation to education and works sectors.

 

According to him, allocation to education would solve infrastructural problems agitated for by university lecturers, while various allocations to road projects in all the geo-political zones.

 

He, however, tasked his colleagues to increase the ratio of recurrent expenditure allocation in favour of to capital expenditure.

“We have a duty to ensure that our budget is implementable. The allocation of N59 billion to he energy sector was fantastic,” he added.

 

Hon. Betty Apiafi said the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is critical to the revamp of the country’s petroleum sector that is still grappling with outdated Joint Ventures Agreement (JVA).

 

Having listened enough to the speakers, the speaker adjourned sitting on further consideration of the bill until Wednesday.

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