The Senate Tuesday resumed the consideration of the general principles of the 2019 Appropriation Bill with more knocks on the budget.
The upper chamber slated the passage of the N8.83 trillion budget estimates for next month.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, after the conclusion of the debate of the general principles of the fiscal document, gave the Appropriation Committee where the budget proposal was referred to, two weeks to turn in its report for consideration and passage.
The upper chamber resolved to ignore heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, who may fail to appear before the sub-committees to defend their budget proposals.
Sub-committees were mandated to adopt the proposals as submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly at the event that any MDA failed to appear before them.
The lawmakers resolved, like it was the case in the past, not to run after heads of MDAs who may refuse to appear before the sub-committees to defend their budget proposals and estimates.
Saraki gave the Appropriation Committee the deadline of April 2, 2019 to submit its report for the consideration of the Senate.
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He said, “The relevant committees should swing into action and ensure that they conclude work on this budget within two weeks. The Committee on Appropriations should submit its report on the 2nd of April so that we can pass the budget.
“Let me also add that the various committees should not run or force any head of agency to appear. If they don’t appear before the given time, adopt what was submitted by the President and submit your report. That is what you should do.”
In his contribution to the debate of the general principles of the budget, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, (Abia South) said that the 2019 budget christened “budget consolidation” is actually “a budget of consolidation of poverty.”
Abaribe who noted that the budget projections did not support the entire template of the budget estimates insisted that fiscal document cannot be implemented.
The Federal Government, he said, should as a matter of urgent, prepare and send entire new budget by September, for the National Assembly work on.
Abaribe said: “People who draft budgets for the President give it different names. They write it with their hands in cheek. It means we are paying more debt than spending on projects. When they say budget of consolidation, they are consolidating poverty. This budget will not be implementable.
“You can see that where we are is just consolidation of poverty. Let them leave this budget. Time is far spent. Let them bring a new budget by September. This budget is a waste of time. I don’t know the essence of this budget they have brought here. Let’s move on to something more important.”
Senator Suleiman Adokwe, on his own noted that poor allocation and releases to fund capital projects is a major challenge the Executive must tackle for economic growth.
Adokwe said, “My major problem with the budget is that not much has been voted for capital projects. Year in, year out, we have the same poor allocation to capital projects. Agencies continue to waste money on recurrent expenditure. Even the release of funds for capital projects, has fallen below our expectations.
“There should be 100 percent release of funds for capital projects. There should also be monitoring of capital projects to ensure that monies released are not misappropriated.”
Senator Ben Murray Bruce canvassed the scrapping of moribund agencies.
The Bayelsa State Senator noted that some of the agencies were established in the 1960s and had outlived their relevance.
He said: “This budget is not different from the one they presented three years ago. There are agencies that were set up in the 1960s. They should be scrapped. We have two percent of Nigerians who are civil servants consuming about 45 percent of our annual budget. We spend trillions on fuel subsidy, but isn’t in our budget. I don’t know what kind of voodoo accounting is this.
“We need to remove the fuel subsidy. We need to take it out. It is a terrible thing. I am not sure the Labour or Nigerians will complain. They will support the move and ensure that we spend the money on other sectors. This is the right thing to do.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, when picking his ministers should select smart people and not those current ones who can’t think outside the box. There are brilliant people here who can do better. I don’t know why we select people who are not smart.”
Senator Matthew Urhoghide, asked the Federal Government to take steps to explore more alternative sources of income to fund its annual budgets.
He said: “Budgeting has become an annual ritual. We have not been able to put a balanced budget on the table. A serious country must ensure that it has a serious source of income to grow its economy. Even MDAs that are supposed to generate revenues don’t do that anymore.
“When we keep talking about budgets every year, it becomes an exercise in futility. We need to sit down and talk about how to ensure that the lives of our people are better. Once this budget is referred to the committees, I know that heads of MDAs will not appear as at when due and in the end, they will blame us.“
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