OrderPaperToday– As part of efforts to establish a budget-driven national planning framework for Nigeria, the Senate has resolved to hold a roundtable discussion aimed at establishing.

The session, which is aimed at producing a forward looking national planning and budgeting processing, the Senate disclosed on Thursday, will have the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in attendance.

The leadership of the Senate Committes on Finance, Appropriations and National Planning are expected to revert to the chamber on “very robust recommendations” from the conference.

This was sequel to the adoption  of a resolution of a motion moved by Sen. Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra) on the need to establish a visionary budget-driven national planning framework for Nigeria.

Contributing to the motion, Senator Abbo (PDP, Adamawa) described the present budget processing as “scandalous and not assessment based.”

He continued, “Somebody from your village working in a ministry in Abuja, will sit down in his office and do a budget that will be implemented in my village without asking the people of my village what they want. But you sit in your office in Abuja – from the Niger-Delta and do budget for somebody in the North East in Adamawa State. I think that is irresponsible to say the least.

“I have always believed in bottom to top approach in governance and there is no way we can reflect that than in the allocation of our resources through the development. We are practicing a representative government meaning that I have 57 wards where I came from and the people that  elected me are expecting me to attract development to those wards and I want to tell you that about 9000 wards in Nigeria have no face of government and we are talking about alleviating poverty.

“Each ward should have a project. We can achieve it, no matter how little, in any ministry. We are talking about creating employment. How can you create employment without actually talking about industrialising the country? How do you talk about industrialising the country when you do not have power supply? So we must begin to get our priorities right.”

Abbo equally berated the Air force for its inability to be proactive in the fight against insurgency.

“We are talking about defeating Boko Haram and today, our Air Force cannot even get spare part to put in a broken down helicopter. It takes them 14 months to order spare part for the helicopter to fight Boko Haram. Why can we not think about building our own helicopter? We can do it.

“I am talking about putting money into research. Allocating money to our universities for research. Properly funding our research institutions,” he said.

Also speaking, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Matthew Urhoghide, lamented that the country is “directionless when it comes to planning.”

He explained, “Rwanda that just came out of civil war, is the destination in Africa today. It is because they have a purpose. They have their budget tied to national planning. What this means is that we are not tying our national planning to our budget.

“If you look at the wastages in our budget, every year, there are inconsequential and invisible line items. Put all the amounts together, you will find out that it is as though we do not even know what to do with the money, when so many things are crying for attention.

“Nigeria,  to tell you that we are directionless, when it comes to planning, is secretive to so many international treaties and conventions in area of health. When we say universal health coverage, 15% annual budget should go to health, we are not honouring it. Even the Act of the National  Assembly, our own Health Act, we are not honouring it.

“Look at education. We talk of education every year. If it is part of our planning, why are we not putting the money there? Let us go the Fiscal Responsibility Act for 2007. If you read it from the beginning, it tells you what national planning is and what to do when budget comes.”

He noted that the Fiscal Responsibility Act mandates the minister of Finance to draw a time table which the Senate ought to use through its committee on Finance, to monitor the progress in the budget every quarter, however, the senator quipped, “since I came to this Senate in 2015, I have never seen that happen.”

“You can see that the whole thing is just directionless. It is not how much you have that can decide the development you can elicit. You sew your cloth according to your cloth.

“We have been talking about the issue of power in this country. You cannot find anybody that boasts  of power that is uninterrupted. The issue of roads, you can never have money to build our roads that we will say ‘yes, we have solved that problem.’

“The little we have, how are we applying it? Is it along with our national plan? No. The issue of whether it is Party A or Party B, I think it is an excuse but the truth of the matter is, this is the time to start. From 2021, our budget has to be driven by our own plans and those plans we have to agree at the National Assembly,” he added.

The presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Ovie Omo-Agege, in his remarks, disagreed with the notion that the country lacks resources, hence the poor budget planning.

He said, “The resources are there. We may not have all the resources we need but at least we have resources. I agree with those who say it has to do with lack of political will and that is what it comes down to.”

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