Posted by News Express | 12 February 2014 | 3,779 times
Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House of Representatives yesterday stalled the second reading of the 2014 Appropriation Bill, faulting portions of the budget and thus forcing Speaker Aminu Tambuwal to rule that further deliberations on it should be deferred to today.
During the debate, the House was divided along party lines, as APC legislators insisted on a thorough scrutiny of the budget, while their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts applauded it, calling it a “budget of consolidation.”
The House Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Kawu Sumaila (APC, Kano), picked holes in the budget, citing Section 16(2) of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates that the economy of the country should not be operated in a way that will concentrate wealth in few hands.
He argued that the constitutional provision was flouted in the budget, which among other things made massive provisions for the Amnesty Programme.
Before the debate began, Tambuwal received the report of the six-man ad hoc advisory committee he set up last week to advise the House on how to proceed with the debate of the budget after the previous session ran into a hitch.
In the report submitted yesterday, the ad hoc committee held that the House should in the national interest, consider the budget and at the same time ask the finance minister to submit the budgetary details of other agencies of government in conformity with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).
At this juncture, Tambuwal ruled that the “House in deference to the overriding national interest should proceed with the deliberation of the budget.”
Urging his colleagues to be level-headed, the Speaker noted: “Our nascent democracy is at a precarious stage as jockeying for political offices has made some people desperate.”
“Many have allowed their interest to stand in the way of the national interest,” he emphasised shortly before calling on the House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande, to kick-start the debate.
But her submission, which was decidedly a vote for the passage of the budget was countered by Sumaila, who described the annual ritual of passing the budget as “mere rhetoric, noise without action, and an empty exercise” that fails to take cognisance of Section 16(2)(c) of the constitution, which stipulates that “the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.”
On this basis, he faulted the 2014 Appropriation Bill, stating that the increase in recurrent expenditure “has little or no impact on the lives of the people of Kano which I represent and indeed the entire country.”
He said: “The proposed budget expenditure of N4.642 trillion is higher than the expected revenue of N3.731 trillion, so this budget comes with N912 billion fiscal deficit. The estimated fiscal deficit is 83 per cent of the proposed total capital expenditure of N1.1 trillion,” concluding that this amounted to “voodoo economics”.
He also raised concern over the budget proposal for the power sector, education, security and amnesty for the Niger Delta militants.
“The sum of N63 billion is expected to cover stipends and allowances of 30,000 Niger Delta militants and re-integration of transformed ex-militants under the Amnesty Programmes while the total capital budget allocated to the Nigeria Army, Ministry of Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force and Police formations is pegged at N41.08 billion.
“This is a clear message that the government of the day is not serious about stemming the insurgency in Northern Nigeria,” he said.
Following his submission, the trio of Hon. Latifat Adeola (APC, Lagos), Hon. Khadijat Bukar-Abba (APC, Yobe) and Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa (APC, Lagos) concurred with Kawu on the “misplaced votes” for the Amnesty Programme.
Dabiri-Erewa specifically termed the budget “fraudulent and clumsy” and flayed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for “acting with impunity”.
She also condemned the proposed allocation of N7 billion for the upcoming National Conference, saying it is a huge waste.
But the position of the APC House members was countered by Hon. Ossai Ossai (PDP, Delta), who reiterated the position of his PDP colleagues by insisting that it was best to pass the budget in order to sustain the growth of the economy, reduce the rate of inflation, stabilise the exchange rate, and support the proposed mortgage refinancing company for affordable housing.
Though it was able to stall the budget debate, APC suffered a setback in terms of membership in the House, with five members defecting to PDP, while one of them shifted base from the PDP to the APC. The House members who left APC for PDP are: Hon. Lawal Shehu Bichi (Kano), Hon. Abdulsalam Adamu (Kano), Hon. Sani Umar Dangaladima (Zamfara), Hon. Umar Mohammed Bature (Sokoto) and Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau (Zamfara). The lone defector from the PDP to the APC is Hon. Isa Mohammed Ashiru (Kaduna).
This development swelled the ranks of the PDP from 174 to 178, just as the APC, which had been angling for weeks to capture the majority in the House, had its strength further weakened from 172 to 168.
•Adapted from a ThisDay report. Photo shows Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, one of the APC lawmakers who stalled the budget debate.
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