Posted by Mayowa Okekale, Abuja | 22 December 2015 | 3,963 times
President and Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured Nigerians that his administration would address youth unemployment and cater for the vulnerable ones in society, even as it remains committed to the diversification and reflating of the economy as urgently as it deserved, through import substitution and export promotion.
Buhari, who stated this while presenting the N6.08 trillion 2016 budget to the joint session of the National Assembly, disclosed that N2.1 trillion of the appropriation will be financed through foreign and domestic loans, clarifying that the loans will be used for capital projects. While allocation to capital expenditure rose from N557 billion to N1.8 trillion, domestic borrowing was estimated to be N984 billion and foreign borrowing put at N900 billion.
On the fuel scarcity which has become frustrating across the nation, the President apologised to Nigerians for the untold suffering and explained that the petrol pump price would, for now, still stay at N87 per litre, adding that the government is working hard to end the scarcity. It is quite unfortunate, but we will end the shortages soon.” Buhari noted that the oil bench mark would be $38 per barrel (which is higher than the current market price), the exchange rate of the budget proposal was pegged at N190. However, he insisted that the Nigerian economy needs to move away from the dependency on oil and be ready to expend efforts in making the growth inclusive.
In the budget estimate, N369 billion was voted for the education, health got a total sum of N269 billion while defence received N294 billion, among other allocations.
His words: “I am here today not only to address the National Assembly but to also to speak directly to men and women who have placed us in our different positions. We have to be committed to economic diversification through import substitution and export promotion; align fiscal, monetary and investment policies in the country. Nigerians would soon get the service they have longed for and which they actually deserve in the real sense. We are here to serve the Nigerian economy, but I know that trust in government has been abused, and that is why it is now at all-time low. Nigerians hardly believe the government. I know that the state of economy is a source of worry.”
On his anti-corruption campaign, Buhari assured Nigerians: “We shall pursue the recovery of everything that belongs to Nigeria, no matter where it is hidden and how long to get them. The confidence of many may be shaken, but I stand before you that we shall secure this country and rebuild our economy.”
In his response to the President’s budget presentation, Senate President Dr Abubakar Bukuola Saraki, said: “Mr President, your coming to this hallowed chamber in person today, to present the 2016 draft Appropriation Bill, bears eloquent testimony to your profound respect and commitment to the ideals of our constitutional democracy and the dictate of the rule of law. This is the first time in a few years that the President of Nigeria has personally performed this constitutional task. It highlights the importance you have attached to building a smooth working relationship with the National Assembly. This is a positive gesture that is not lost on all of us.”
Saraki appealed to Buhari to assist the Senate in the task, urging that members of his government must promptly respond to invitations for clarifications when they are required to do so by the National Assembly, adding:“Mr. President, if only half of the unfolding allegations regarding financial misappropriation under the previous administration are true, they would already be sufficient evidence of the dangers that we face when public officials treat accountability institutions with disdain and oversight activities with irritation.”
Further, he noted that the National Assembly is conscious of the yearnings of Nigerians for quick delivery of democracy dividends, saying: “We have a critical role to play, and we recognise this role. On the budget, we are willing and ready to provide the scrutiny necessary to pass only a budget that can be implemented comprehensively to the letter. We are ready to move swiftly and speedily to pass the 2016 Appropriation Bill. The swift passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper already points to our commitment and resolve towards this.”
He however appealed for the steadfastness and patriotism of his colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives, adding:“We will apply same, but in the light of the great importance of this document, we will not short-circuit scrutiny on the altar of expediency.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, in his brief comment, said that “a well-crafted budget is not an end in itself, the real meat in a budget is in its implementation.”
•Photo shows President Buhari presenting the 2016 Budget before the National Assembly . . . today in Abuja.
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