OrderPaperToday– The passage of the 2018 budget has come under probability as senators on Tuesday threatened to dump the proposals.
The reasons for the threat range from non-preparedness of the Executive arm of government for committees’ defence, lack of coordination within Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and unavailability of key functionaries of government, among others.
The senators expressed their frustration when a point of order was moved deputy majority leader of the senate, Sen. Bala Na’allah (APC, Kebbi) on Tuesday, stating reasons why the passage of the budget may be delayed.
According to Na’Allah, the template of the proposed appropriation bill is not in tune with the realities of present times as it was created during the military era.
He said: “I feel that there are certain aspects that the Senate has so many things to discuss. When we suspended the plenary for two weeks, the intention was to enable committees work. They are supposed to report progress in order to enable the Senate pass the budget before the end of the year or early next year.
“When we suspended plenary, it was with the idea that the committees will swing into action so we can have a tentative date to pass the budget. From what I have seen, we might run into troubled waters. If we have not appreciated what the problems are, it is important for Nigerians to come here and understand what the problem is.
“The template we are using will continue to create problems for us. It was created during the military era. The template cannot work in our country today. From reports we have had, it is obvious that we have problems. We need to know what the problems are. If we have a 2017 budget that has not been executed today and we are considering the 2018 budget, it means there is a problem.
“The President told us that the 2017 budget was going to achieve at least 60 per cent performance. Today, that has not happened. We need to lay this issue and discuss it. Let us put the facts before the Executive and show Nigerians the difficulties we are facing.”
Also speaking, Senator Mathew Urghohide (PDP, Edo) told his colleagues that it was obvious the executive were not ready to begin work on the budget. Uroghide said: “If you look through the performance of 2017 as presented by some of the MDAs, there is really nothing to present, for personnel expenditure many of them are still complaining that what was appropriated to them is not enough, overhead of 2017 is worse as capital expenditure, so that many of the MDAs were not working on daily basis.
“Every consideration of 2018 budget should be put at bay because this executive is not serious. If this executive is serious about 2018 budget, let them give us information about capital expenditure.”
Senator Adeola Olamilekan (APC, Lagos) rather proposed that the upper legislative chamber invite the Ministers of Finance and Budget and National Planning, saying “it is unfortunate that the set target to pass this budget before the end of the year is not visible.
“How can we consider 2018 budget without knowing the performance of 2017 budget, it’s an aberation and if you look at the documents of these MDAs, the facts are there, there are no clear calls in the 2017 budget to compare the 2018 budget.
“There in, you find out that the performance of the budget, there is nothing to write home about and there is no basis for us to rush. What we have before us does not show us that this executive is ready for this budget to be passed.
“The 2017 budget has not performed anything. There is need for us to be in hurry. There is need for us to invite the minister finance and budget to appear before us and explain to us.”
According to Sen. Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi), there is no relationship between 2017 and 2018 budget which he termed “boju boju”.
Melaye noted that: “The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the presentation of the budget stated very clearly that the 2017 budget will be rolled over.
“There is no relationship between 2017 and 2018 budget. There is an outstanding of over N1.1 billion stamp duty that have not been remitted into federation account yet he took a Eurobond of $5.5 billion we won’t need that if these funds were remitted.
“NNPC is supposed to pay over N300million into the federation account, no kobo was paid by NNPC in 2016, none was paid in 2017 and we say we are fighting corruption.
“It is time for this Senate to ask principal agents of government that are keeping government money so that it can be put in the consolidated revenue. Why are we borrowing when we have money scattered in agencies.
“Enough is enough; we must make sure that the 2017 budget is implemented. It is our responsibility to convert this ‘boju boju’ budget to a budget that will be accepted in the margins of this country because hunger has no political party and all of us go to the same market.”