Reps allegedly uncover conflicting figures in 2019 budget
•Mandate committees to meet with finance minister
•Senators trade words over delayed consideration of fiscal document
The House of Representatives yesterday began debate on the general principles of the 2019 budget.At the plenary, presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the lawmakers allegedly discovered conflicting figures in the estimates of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
The document was entitled: “A bill for an Act to authorise the issuance from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, the total sum of N8,826,636,578,915 only, out of which N492,360,342,965 is for statutory transfers, N2,264,014,113,092 for debt servicing, N4,038,557, 664,767 for recurrent expenditure while N31,704,458,092 is for development contribution to capital expenditure for the year ending December 31, 2019.”
Chika Abubakar Adamu (APC: Niger) noted that the figures for the various subheads of the MDAs did not tally with the total amount earmarked for them.He made the observation shortly after the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had stressed the need for the immediate passage of the budget. Ahman Pategi (PDP: Niger) called for the suspension of the exercise on account of the alleged lapses.
Simon Arabo (PDP: Kaduna), in his contribution, queried the projected sale of 2.2 million barrels per day when the country had never attained the production quota over the years.He decried government’s penchant for borrowing in the face of OPEC’s pegging of the country’s output at 1.7 million barrels per day.
To Tobi Okechukwu (PDP: Enugu), the sum of N2.2 trillion for debt servicing was unacceptable, even as he regretted the little or no impact the 2018 budget made in the lives of the citizenry owing largely to “poor implementation.”On his part, Mohammad Tahir Monguno, lauded the anchor borrowers’ programme of the current administration towards self-sufficiency in rice production and the resultant drop in the yearly import receipts from N665 billion to N160 billion. He, however, sought the separation of budgetary provisions for the agriculture minister from those meant to boost the sector nationwide.
Dogara, who ran through the budgetary proposals, mandated the relevant committees to interface with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, to fine-tune the document for further action.He ordered the continuation of the debate pending when a clean copy is made available today.
Meanwhile, the delayed consideration of the fiscal document has begun brewing disaffection in the Senate, as members trade words along party line.Former Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, particularly accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership of the National Assembly of frustrating early debate on the bill.He made the claim yesterday while fielding questions from newsmen on happenings in the polity.
But he was faulted by a member of the Committee on Appropriation, Rafiu Ibrahim, arguing that most All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers had also been absent from sittings.He described the allegation as mischievous.On the minimum wage saga, Ibrahim said no communication had been received from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ndume had contended that members of the ruling APC in the chamber were desirous of passing the budget in a week but for the alleged tardiness of the PDP leadership of the Assembly.When reminded that the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC: Yobe North), who was supposed to move for commencement of debate on general principles of the budget or his deputy, Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC: Kebbi South), were not around on Tuesday and yesterday, the Borno legislator said the move and speed for such legislative exercise lie with the two presiding and principal officers.
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