OrderPaperToday – Some members of the House of Representatives have stated that allocations to capital projects are very poor even as the lawmakers commenced debate on the 2021 appropriation bill.
The bill was presented to a joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
In considering the N13.082 trillion budget proposal on Tuesday, most of the members who contributed to the debate pressed for more allocations to capital projects.
The 2021 budget as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari showed that out of the proposed N13.08 trillion expenditure, non-debt recurrent costs got allocation of N5.65 trillion and overhead cost of N625.50 billion as the sum of N3.85 trillion was earmarked for capital projects.
In terms of capital allocation, the ministry of works and housing got the highest allocation.
In his contribution, Thomas Ereyitomi (PDP, Delta) argued that capital projects needed to be given more funds so as to address the infrastructural deficit in the country.
Ereyitomi said: “Most of our roads and infrastructure are all decayed. We now have the budget before us where the recurrent expenditure and overhead cost are taking the large chunk of the budget. Mr. Speaker, I want to recommend that the capital expenditure of this budget… we need to increase it.
He continued: “We need to look at our infrastructure decay in this country. If we leave this budget as proposed without doing anything, the budget which we have much overhead cost we need to drastically reduce it. Above all, diversification is part of this budget Mr. Speaker. We need to diversify our economy so that our source of revenue in this country will not be tied to oil”.
On his part , Rotimi Agunsoye (APC, Lagos) said more allocations ought to be made to capital projects especially in the health sector to reconstruct general hospitals across the country in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Within the last seven months or more we have been able to know that without going abroad we can survive in Nigeria. I expect in this budget that under capital be it health or general capital that they should have made provision to reconstruct the general hospitals or we make provision to construct good hospitals with standard equipment that can take care of our health. I expected that and that is not here. Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, I think budget should be in that direction.”
In his contribution, Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau) stated that the 2021 budget is not balanced in terms of revenue generation, alleging that Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were mismanaging the lean revenues of the country.
“Why is our revenue still on the same spot when we have increase in VAT and other taxes. We need to see the positive of those increment on our revenue. I think there’s a conspiracy somewhere. Committees are yet to live up to the expectations by subjecting agencies in a very democratic manner to discover why our revenue is standing where it is,” he submitted.
A member from Benue State, Mark Gbillah (PDP) said the projection of N5.20 trillion for debt servicing was in contravention of the 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Act and called for the outright withdrawal of the appropriation bill.
“Certain statutory provision of our laws that are meant to provide fiscal discipline are serially being violated by the executive in the budget proposals and presentations they made in the last Assembly so for me this document ought to be withdrawn,” he said.
On the other hand, the deputy minority Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) said: “The deficit provision which the President alluded to, in 2014, budget was 4.6 trillion, today its 13 trillion. But when you compare, this there has been a lot of motions without movement.
“I appreciate the effort to criticize and baptize this budget as budget of recovery. But we have not been told what has been spent in the past three years.
“It is important for us to note that the committee on finance did a thorough work reflecting some leakages in regards to agencies of government. Some of them are remitting 25 percent, some are not remitting at all. There are lot of expenditure being done in the past three years of governance. We must subject these things to scrutiny,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zachariah Nyampa (APC, Adamawa) commended President Muhammadu for making the 2021 capital budget N1.15 trillion higher than the 2020 provision of N2.69 trillion and for the assurance that capital expenditure in 2021 remains focused on the completion of as many ongoing projects as possible, rather than the commencement of new ones.
Recall that Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila in his remarks at the budget presentation ceremony stressed on the need to focus on the completion of ongoing projects.
The budget debate which commenced at the senate on Tuesday also saw senators mainly of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), criticizing the bill.