After two days of debate, the House of Representatives has passed the 2020 budget for second reading.
The bill was extensively debated by members of the House for straight two days, and when it was put to vote by the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, the “ayes” had it.
Wase subsequently referred the bill to the committee on appropriation and other relevant standing committees of the House.
The N10.3trillion bill was submitted, last Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While debating the budget, the House of Representatives said that the N48billion capital budgetary allocation for education in the 2020 appropriation was poor.
This followed a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Rep. Babajide Benson (APC-Lagos) in commemoration of World Teachers’ Day at plenary presided over by the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday.
Education, however, got an additional N112billion allocation under Universal Basic Education Commission.
There is also TETFUND, which has a budget in three figure billions.
Nevertheless, the House stressed on the need for an increase in the budgetary allocation to the Education sector in the 2020 appropriation bill to better equip teachers with the required training and adequate facilities in schools.
It also expressed concern that teachers in the country were overworked and remained among the worst paid in the world with poor welfare packages and teaching environments in spite of their contributions to societal development.
The green chamber also urged the Federal Government to improve on the welfare and support schemes for teachers.
It called for more training for teachers using the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) approach to address education policy and curriculum choices in schools.
The legislature emphasised that the training would improve competitiveness in science and technology development in the country.
The green chamber also called for the employment of more teachers to address the issue of inadequate staffing and low productivity within the education sector.
The House further mandated the committees on Tertiary Education and Services, and Basic Education and Service to ensure implementation.
The legislature, however, recognised and honoured the best teacher and principal in Nigeria to appreciate and show support for their selfless sacrifices towards societal development.
However, senators belonging to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for adhering strictly to the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by ensuring the timely submission of the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
The lawmakers, during the second day of debate on the 2020 Budget estimates, said the early submission of the appropriation bill will facilitate its quick passage by the National Assembly, as well as return the country’s budget cycle to the January-December timeline as provided by Constitution.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) applauded Buhari over his determination to reverse the poor annual budgetary practice that characterised late submission of the appropriation bill to the National Assembly.
He said: “What President Buhari did this year, is a complete deviation from what we have been seeing in terms of procedure in the presentation of our annual budget estimates to the National Assembly.
“For the first time, the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) were strictly adhered to. Last year, we had the budget presented to the National Assembly before the MTEF/FSP came.
“We know the Act states very clearly that MTEF/FSP must come first, and the National Assembly must pass it, before the budget estimates come.
“This is the first time we are adhering strictly to this procedure. It is commendable on the path of President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly.”
Urhoghide, while calling on the Federal Government to ensure that capital expenditure in the 2020 budget benefits Nigerians, added that “the provisions of the FRA as regards the budgetary execution and meeting of targets must be adhered to.”
“It is the responsibility of the Finance Minister to meet with the joint Committee of Finance of the Senate and House of Representatives, so that there is a quarterly briefing of releases and distribution of funds. This is lacking, that is why there are mistakes in the execution of the budget,” Urhoghide said.
Another lawmaker, Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North-East), also commended Buhari for throwing his weight behind the amendment of the Deep Offshore Inland Revenue Act.
According to the lawmaker, Nigeria stands to benefit “an additional N400billion for this year” with an amendment to the Act.
He, however, stressed that the Committees on Appropriation and Finance of the National Assembly have a task to balance the submission of the President.
“What we do as a National Assembly must reflect equitable distribution of available resources to the good of all Nigerians,” Akpan said.
Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP, Edo Central), while lending his voice to the debate of the budget estimates, said “this budget of growth and job creation is apt at this point in time in the history of our national development because when fully implemented, it will go a long way in removing our youths from the streets.”
He added: “The infrastructural development of this country needs to be handled holistically with timelines. This is the only way we can be able to attract investors to this country.”
While commending Buhari for providing N296billion sinking fund for payment of local contractors, Ordia urged the Federal Government to ensure that those owed over a period of time are duly paid.
Speaking on the manufacturing sector, the lawmaker said “It is supposed to be one of the major sectors contributing to our GDP. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
“Presently, the manufacturing sector and in fact the private sector only contribute about nine percent to our GDP.
“This will not create the right environment that would create jobs for our young school leavers,” Ordia added.
Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo Central) bemoaned the high level of unaccountability by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government charged with the responsibility of revenue generation.
According to him, revenues accruable to agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) if accounted for, are sufficient to fund the Nigeria’s annual budget.
He said: “Not much emphasis is made in the revenue of government. The revenue of NNPC if accounted for can fund the national budget.
“The internal revenue of the immigration is not accounted for. They are made away with by contractors.
“When we talk about increase in VAT, the Federal Inland Revenue must double its efforts when it comes to remittance of revenues.”
Akinyelure, however, advised that if revenues accruable to government are properly allocated to several projects, same would go a long way in bringing about the much desired development expected by Nigerians.
The Senate adjourned debate on the 2020 budget estimates till next week Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a senior lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba has written to President Muhammadu Buhari on issues surrounding the 2020 appropriation bill laid before the joint session of the National Assembly, last Tuesday.
In the letter, a copy of which was made available to newsmen, yesterday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), applauded the President for laying the budget estimate in good time. He, however, drew the president’s attention to salient issues regarding the budget and made some recommendations.
The letter reads, “I applaud the unusual departure of the Government of Nigeria by laying the budget estimates in good time and the reciprocity of the National Assembly to pass the estimates in 2019! This is record-breaking, but alas, this is only as good as can be said of the budget estimates.
“In a country of 200 million and 50 per cent living in poverty, the budget reflects many missing fundamentals. The starting point with this budget is a diagnosis of our condition. I would diagnose that Nigeria is afflicted with malignant metabolic economic syndrome complicated by high inflation, high interest rates, mass unemployment, weak infrastructure, slow growth, unclear borrowing policy, unaccountable subsidy, etc.
“To turn things around, I like to assume that you have charged the new Economic Advisory Council to give us short and immediate solutions. Working from my diagnosis of Nigeria’s economic disease, we need to work out a macro-economic development framework that lays out a harmonized fiscal, monetary, investment, legal, institutional and regulatory agenda. Fiscal policy or rate at which government spends, must be dramatically expansionary. We cannot have an anaemic budget of N10trillion for 200 million Nigerians, which is equivalent to N50,000 per person, per annum. This will keep us in poverty abysmal when we need double digit growth!
“On the basis of a GDP of $400billion, the baseline annual budget should be 20 per cent which approximates N20-30trillion annual spend rather than the miserly N10trillion budget. Our annual spend is anaemic and we have to infuse large money. For monetary policy, we need urgent quantitative easing, which is easing of all interest rates in particular to slack the heavy burden of high-interest rates on lending afflicting long-suffering Nigerians. We must be very proactive to look for new funds.
“Traditionally, public revenue has depended on tax and oil receipts but there are far too many other sources- the maritime sector is laden with cash, agriculture and the blue ocean, trade, the real sector, and controversial as it may appear, revenue that can be derived from new legislation on immunity from criminal prosecution. Government must consider legislation on criminal immunity to those who have plundered us, and we will likely see massive inflows of our money in foreign banks back to us. At present, the money is out of our reach anyway! I estimate $100billion will flow back if we grant immunity from criminal prosecutions but with civil sanctions.
“Engagement of the private sector in partnerships will yield a massive stock of revenue. We need our Dangotes, Jim Ovias, Mike Adenugas, Innosons to be involved, just like the Chaebols of South Korea. I know that the Onitsha-Nnewi-Ogidi market axis can generate up to N10trillion if the proper incentives are offered.
“Foreign and domestic investments in infrastructure is possible if the proper legal institutional and regulatory environment is established. Public revenue will be enhanced by, at least, N3trillion if we rebase foreign exchange rates from N305 to N360 and remove fuel subsidy at once.
“Additionally, we must review public expenditure. Far too much money is consumed by recurrent receipts. Downsizing government is a task that needs immediate attention by implementation of the Oronsaye report. Our public sector borrowing requirement needs review so that our revenue to debt ratio is less than 30 per cent. Banks must focus on their primary function of lending not trading as we have seen in purchase of Treasury bills in excess of N400billion. Tax collection efficiency and not increase should be the policy and chairman of FIRS, Fowler, and Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor are two public servants deserving special mention for their innovation.
“As an expert in shipping and hydrocarbons, I query why government only sees dollars from a barrel of crude when the value chain has at least 34 soft and hard by-products other than crude oil. In my field, there is banking, shipping, legal and insurance, but very little of the cash from this value chain from crude oil stays in our economy. We need to reset the clock. I will assume that that the budget estimates is just the start of a turnaround process of economic transformation.
“Having held their meeting with you, can the Economic Advisory Council give us a short turnaround plan to create jobs, opportunities and double digit growth? A good plan can create 10 million jobs annually, open the economy, expand local production and put the economy into double digits and pull millions out of poverty in addition to good education and healthcare.”
Senate Resumes Work On MTEF/FSP, Next Week
The Senate Committee on Finance, yesterday, said it would begin legislative work on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) on Wednesday, August 19.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola (APC Lagos West), disclosed in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, adding that invitations have been sent to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government with presentations to make on the document.
Adeola, in the statement signed by his media aide, Kayode Odunaro, said the MDAs were to appear before the Senate Joint Committee on Finance, and National Planning.
He noted that there was need to examine the rationale for pegging the price of crude oil at $40 per barrel and a projected crude oil production of 1.86 million barrels per day (mbpd), in the MTEF/FSP document.
He said, ”We are kick-starting the process on Wednesday with Government-Owned Enterprises (GOEs) like NNPC, NCC, NPA, Customs Service, NIMASA, DPR and others, followed by the Ministry of Finance and its agencies, and subsequently, all revenue generating agencies”.
The lawmaker called on heads of MDAs to be prepared to defend their projections “as the Joint Committee intends to present the report to the Senate in plenary immediately on resumption from its ongoing vacation in tandem with the desire of the upper chamber to pass the 2021 budget in December.”
Adeola insisted that there was need for thorough scrutiny of the MTEF/FSP document in view of the fluid nature of the world economy following the disruptive impact of Covid-19 pandemic and the vagaries of the international market for crude oil and its attendant effects on the nation’s sources of revenue.
According to him, “There is a need for all stakeholders to come together to critically study the fundamentals of the ‘new normal’ forced on the global economy by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With the instability witnessed in the price of crude oil at the international market and the sluggish world economy with some nations falling into recession, there is a need to assess our situation critically and be realistic about our revenues sources for budgets going forward”.
By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
Take Off Of National Senior Citizens’ Centre Underway, FG Assures
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has said plans are on the way to build a centre for the old people.
Farouq, according to a statement by her Special Assistant on Strategic Communication, Halima Oyelade, said this at a meeting with the Coalition of Societies for the Rights of the Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN) in Abuja, yesterday.
“She assured members of the coalition that the ministry is working toward the successful take-off of the National Senior Citizen’s Centre,” the statement said.
It read further: “According to the Minister, a law establishing the centre is already in place. When operational this centre will among other things identify needs, opportunities, and training of senior citizens and provide recreational, sports, educational, health and social programmes and facilities designed for the full enjoyment and benefit of senior citizens.
“Responding, the President of the COSROPIN, Senator Eze Ajoku, thanked the Honourable Minister for the Covid-19 Palliatives, the group had received to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
“He then briefed the minister on activities of the coalition which include following up on the National Policy on Aging, pursuing non-contributory health insurance for older persons, enumeration of older citizens as well as the Older Persons Rights and Privilege Bill which according to him had passed second reading at the Senate.
“He asked for the minister’s support in the actualization of these initiatives.
“The Honourable Minister assured the coalition of the ministry’s support adding that older citizens are one of the key vulnerable groups that are of concern to the ministry.
“She further noted that most of them have been of service to the nation in their prime and still have a lot to offer due to their wealth of experience.
“The ministry will, therefore, ensure it gives due attention to issues concerning their well-being while ensuring it carries them along in the structuring and take-off of the National Senior Citizens Centre.”
World Powers Deny Us Weapons To Fight Insurgency, FG Cries Out
The Federal Government has appealed to the world powers not to be weighed by unsubstantiated arguments to deny the country vital platforms and weapons to fight insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the appeal, yesterday, when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja.
“I want to use this opportunity to say that the international community can help us better than they are doing right now.
“To fight terrorists we need platforms and weapons.
“When the international community is weighed by unsubstantiated arguments to deny the country of vital platforms and weapons to fight insecurity, you cannot turn round to accuse the country of not fighting terrorism,’ he said.
The minister buttresses the claim, saying “certain world powers have refused to even sell to us certain vital weapons.”
“For more than two to three years now, we have paid for certain vital weapons that they have not released to us and they even refused to give us spare parts.
“I think our appeal to them is that they should please help Nigeria to provide us with these sensitive platforms so that we can fight insecurity more effectively.”
The minister said for Nigerians to fairly assess the efforts of the Federal Government in the fight against insecurity, they should compare where the country was pre-2015 and today.
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