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2024 budget in tune with yearnings of Nigerians – Senate

By Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Anthony Otaru (Abuja) and Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)
03 December 2023   |   4:08 am
The Senate Committee on Appropriation has declared that the 2024 Appropriation Bill of N27.5 trillion is in tune with the yearnings of Nigerians. This was even as Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris Malagi...

Mohammed Idris Malagi

•Debunks Allegation Of Fire Brigade Approach In Scrutinising Document
•Minister, Don Applaud Proposal As Coalition Tasks NASS On Expeditious Passage

The Senate Committee on Appropriation has declared that the 2024 Appropriation Bill of N27.5 trillion is in tune with the yearnings of Nigerians.
This was even as Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris Malagi, has assured Nigerians that the budget will mark the beginning of a transformative era in the country once it is passed by the National Assembly.

Also, the Director, Institute of Capital Market Studies at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof. Uche Uwaleke, also declared yesterday that the budget proposals hold a lot of promise for the economy if well implemented.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, who spoke to newsmen after their meeting yesterday, also debunked the insinuation that a fire brigade approach was being deployed to scrutinise the budget.

“There is no fire brigade here. There are processes which we have to follow. Agencies will have to appear to defend their budgets and they will return the budget to the Appropriation Committee for us to collate their findings at the committee level,” he noted.

Recall that the Senate had passed the budget for second reading last Friday barely 48 hours after it was presented by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
For an expeditious consideration at committee levels and final passage before Christmas, the Senate mandated its Committee on Appropriation to, after collation of reports from various standing committees, submit the final report on the document on Tuesday, December 19, 2023.

The committee chairman explained: “We have only discussed the modalities that we are going to use to ensure we have a smooth appropriation process in the Senate and I think all the chairmen of the various committees of the Senate are here and we discussed extensively so that we can still meet the December 31 – January deadline so that the President can assent to the budget.

“We have perfected the strategy and we are good to go. That is basically what we discussed.

“This time around, what has changed is that we will be having joint sittings of both the House of Representatives and the Senate; some committees will be operating from the Senate while some will operate from the House of Representatives. We can still meet the deadline.”

On some agencies not appearing before the committee, the chairman said: “I know that part of the directive given by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is that all ministers at this point should ensure that they are on ground to defend their budgets before the National Assembly.”

I know that no head of agency or parastatal will flout that order of the President.

“We are working towards that. From next week you will see agencies coming to defend their budgets in the National Assembly.”On the limited time for deliberation, which may not allow the committee to do a thorough job, Olamilekan said: “Like I said nothing has changed. Whatever you want to define to be thorough we still have the time to do and we have said the only thing that we have amended is this issue of joint sitting so that we can cover some delays that we have encountered in the laying of the budget. So, we are working round the clock and our Saturdays and Sundays are no longer free until the budget is eventually passed.”

The Minister of Information and National Orientation , who spoke yesterday when he declared open the 2023 Annual Public Lecture/AGM/Awards and Election of the Kaduna State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), said that the budget signifies a pivotal step towards the realisation of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.

He said: “Just this week, he (President Tinubu) presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill of N27.5 trillion to the National Assembly, the first full-year budget of his administration. The budget, as presented, signifies a pivotal step towards the realisation of his Renewed Hope Agenda, by aligning fiscal strategies and priorities with broader national development objectives.

“In addition to its focus on development priorities, the budget demonstrates a commitment to fiscal responsibility. President Tinubu’s administration recognises the importance of prudent financial management as the foundation for long-term economic stability.

“As the 2024 Appropriation Bill moves through the legislative process, we are very optimistic that its passage will mark the beginning of a transformative era, bringing tangible improvements to the lives of Nigerians,” he said.

He noted that before the budget presentation, President Tinubu had assented to an equally important supplementary budget, signed a number of landmark bills and Executive Orders into law, and inaugurated special presidential initiatives on Fiscal Policy Reform, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Food Security, MSME Support and other critical areas of the economy.

“The goal has been to deliver relief to the Nigerian people, and lay the groundwork for true and lasting prosperity.

“At this juncture, let me remind us that one of the pillars of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Eight-Point Agenda is “Inclusivity”, which means inclusive policies and programmes for all segments of the population, especially youth and women. You can see manifestations of this even in the array of appointments made by the President so far, and the prominence given to young people and to women. This is not to say we have done enough, and can therefore rest on our oars. No!

“We can still do better, and I can assure you that President Tinubu will continue to push the envelope in this regard.

“In addition to appointments and representation, the Tinubu Administration has very importantly been rolling out policies targeted at creating the enabling environment for Nigerians to thrive, across all demographic categories,” he added.

Speaking with The Guardian in Abuja, Uwaleke applauded the 2024 budget, but expressed fears that the likely distortionary impact of the new foreign exchange regime could be a major snag.

He said: “A naira float in the face of weak supply and strong demand with its attendant forex market volatility introduces uncertainty in budget implementation. This is why I consider the N750 to the dollar rate used for the 2024 budget as a tall order.”

He explained that most likely, the exchange rate would be the major cause of wide budget variances in the 2024 budget on account of NAFEM operations.

“This is particularly so in respect of the dollar-denominated component of the budget much of which can be found in the over N3 trillion proposed defence spending as well as in recurrent debt expenditure,” he noted.

According to him, volatile and high exchange rates would increase the cost of servicing external debt and further widen the budget deficit. He stressed: “In my view, a well implemented and corrupt-free dual (not multiple) exchange rate regime (one official including for debt service and another tier for other transactions) helps to bring certainty in government procurements and short term planning in general.”

He further stated that a related issue has to do with the mode of financing the over N9 trillion deficit and its likely impact on cost of capital for firms and the stock market.

“Unlike in previous budgets where the amount voted for new borrowings were split fairly equally between domestic and foreign sources, this time around domestic borrowing is taking up a huge chunk at about 78 per cent (N6.1 trillion out N7.8 trillion provisioned for new borrowings).

“This can have the effect of crowding out the private sector, hiking interest rates, increasing cost of funds and depressing the equities market as investors migrate to fixed income securities. The outcome will be a further weakening of the productive sector.

“In this regard, the government is advised to explore more opportunities for concessional project-tied loans from multilateral and bilateral sources. This will help to boost forex reserves and stabilise the exchange rate.

“With respect to borrowing domestically, it’s important that emphasis should be placed on the use of the right instruments such as infrastructure bonds as opposed to FGN bonds that are inflationary prone,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people under the aegis of the Civil Society Groups for Good Governance have thrown their weights behind the resolve by President Tinubu and the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, to ensure an expeditious passage of the 2024 budget.

Convener of the group, Chief Ogakwu Dominic, who addressed the media at the National Assembly, explained that they embarked on the solidarity rally to drum up support for the President and Senate President Akpabio.

Applauding Akpabio’s leadership style, he explained that within the last five months, he has demonstrated a high level of intelligence and sagacity while at the helm of affairs in the National Assembly.

Dominic said: “We are here to drum support for the 10th National Assembly and particularly the Senate under the dynamic leadership of His Excellency, the uncommon transformer, Senator Godswill Akpabio for his tacit support to the government of our President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Renewed Hope Agenda.

“We believe that with the collaboration between the President and Senator Akpabio and the entire Senate, Nigeria is again on the path of greatness. This coalition is grateful to the Senate and the House of Representatives for promising to pass the budget expeditiously and we urge our distinguished lawmakers to keep to their words.”

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