Too many lies in 2018 budget — Senate

Posted by Olugbenga Salami | 21 December 2017 | 1,194 times

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•The Senate in session

Some senators yesterday attacked the executive arm of government led by President Muhammadu Buhari over certain “lies and deceits” in the N8.612 trillion budget for 2018 fiscal year by the president, even as it postponed the consideration and passage of the estimates till March next year. Peeved by the alleged deceits, the upper legislative chamber changed its decision on the early passage of the budget.

It would be recalled that the Senate had on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, adjourned plenary for two weeks to allow its standing committees meet officials of the various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, for defence sessions on their 2018 budget estimates, with the belief that its Committee on Appropriation would submit report to that effect for consideration yesterday.

Deputy leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South) said reports reaching the Senate from the various committees indicated that budgetary pronouncements made by the president were not in any way reflective in the submissions being made by heads of the MDAs. Na’Allah, who came through a point of order to facilitate debate on the subject matter, said the 60 percent of the capital component of the 2017 budget President Buhari promised to roll over to 2018 budget was not in any way reflective in any of the 2018 budget submissions made by heads of the MDAs so far. According to him, the president in his budget speech also promised that implementation of the capital component should be about 40 to 50 percent by December but with few days to the end of month, realities on ground based on records of the MDAs so far met show that performance of the capital component of the 2017 budget is still far below 20 percent.

“Therefore, Mr. President based on realities on ground the senate needs to review its earlier position on passing the budget before the end of this year by ensuring that proper things are done in line with extant acts and laws and in the general interest of Nigerians. “Performance of the 2017 budget must be properly scrutinised in meeting up with expected standard before rushing into passage of the 2018 budget,” he said.

As for Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC Benue North-East), the earlier plan of passing the budget this month in meeting up with President Buhari’s wish of January to December budget year was no longer realistic. He suggested that the life span of the capital component of the 2017 budget should be extended to March 31st 2018, to pave way for the needed thorough work on 2018 budget estimates which according him, can take off on 1st of April, 2018. He said: “We have to handle the matter in realistic way. Therefore we have to set a date for the implementation of the 2017 budget based on the borrowing plan which had been approved and the roughshod that they did.

“When we specify that period, then we will hold the various MDAs responsible to bring here the complete report of what they actually have produced and therefore the balance of 2017 capital budget will be rolled over in a manner that will satisfy the agreement that we have undertaken.

“I therefore propose that we should be looking at a date of March 31 to allow the capital budget of 2017 to be implemented to the extent of the funding windows that are available and therefore begin the 2018 budget from April 1 and allow the committees really get to the root of what is still pending in 2017 in order to roll over those projects so that we don’t have a barrage of abandoned projects all over the country because of whatever has happened in the mistake of appropriation proposals.”

Also contributing, Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South) said “the 2018 budget is already bedevilled going by the abysmal performance of the 2017 budget is anchored on. “Overhead component of the budget is as worse as the capital component. Therefore, every consideration of the 2018 budget should be put at bay until the real performance of the 2017 budget is established to know the exact percentage of rollover to be done for 2018.”

Senator Solomon Adeola (APC Lagos West) in his own submission said the whole crises surrounding the implementation of the 2017 budget and consideration of the 2018 estimates, was caused by the gross incompetence of the economic team of Mr. President.

On his own, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) in his submissions described the 2018 budget speech presented to them by President Buhari as one full of lies and deceits. He said: “There is no correlation or relationship between the 2017 and the 2018 budget. I realised that it was impossible for the executive to know as at the time the budget was been put together, which project will be completed talk-less of rolling them over. That is to say the budget we received was a boju-boju budget.

“We cannot live in deception and expect prosperity. There is an outstanding of N1.4 trillion stamp duty that has accumulated with the CBN that has not been remitted into the federation account.

“We need to strengthen the capacity of our treasury, we need to empower and strengthen the Office of the Accountant General of the federation to collect accruable revenue from all MDAs so that there will be money for implementation of our budgets.

“In 2016, NNPC was supposed to pay over N300 billion as IGR into the federation account, but no kobo was paid and no kobo has been paid in 2017. And all these revenues are hanging and we say we are fighting corruption. It is time for the senate to ask these agencies of government to remit such monies.

“Why are we borrowing when we have monies scattered in the MDAs. The issue of discussing 2018 budget does not arise. We must make sure that 2017 budget is properly implemented. We must make sure that the budget is not elitist it is budget of the poor, masses that is acceptable to the downtrodden in the society.”

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, concurred with the submissions of the senators that the 2018 budget cannot be considered or passed for now. He said: “By now 2017 budget should have been implemented either 40 or 60 per cent but this has not been the case. This makes it very difficult for us; we cannot turn ourselves into magicians.

“But I will continue to appeal that you work within what you have and let us do our best to ensure that we have a budget that is in the interest of Nigerians.

“The executive on their part, should sit up and stop rhetoric, but really get down to work. If 2017 budget items are not rolled over to 2018 as declared by the president that is a disaster. The executive should show some seriousness toward the budget exercise.” (Nigerian Pilot)

Source: News Express

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