By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday passed the 2020 Appropriation Bill (budget) to second reading.
The House equally adjourned plenary till October 29, 2019 to enable its various standing committees meet with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government for their budget defence.
President Muhammadu Buhari had penultimate Tuesday presented the N10.33trilion Bill before a joint session of the National Assembly.
To ensure that the country return to the January to December budgetary circle, both the Executive and the Legislative arms of government have equally shown determination to expedite action on the bill to pass it before the end of year.
To this end, debate on the general principle of the bill swiftly commenced in the House on Wednesday, a day after its presentation with members of the House baring their minds on the estimates, which however continued on Thursday.
Some members who spoke commended the President and the Executive for the early presentation of the budget and the budgetary allocations made to various sectors of economy, just as others also picked holes in the budget, saying it was lacking on capital projects.
Hon. Nnolim Nnaji from Enugu preferred that much more funds should be channeled to fixing the airports, saying it would give life to commercial activities and in turn contribute to the the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said: “I am more concerned about our airports. I believe that our airports should be given a serious consideration. The infrastructures at the airports should be stepped up. They have collapsed. Our airports should be developed in such a way that they can be a hub.”
On his part, Hon. Dan Asuquo from Cross River State, the details of the budget needed to be made available before debate to enable members speak appropriately.
He said: “I am commenting on the speech and the intention of the Executive for 2020. I don’t have the details yet. I cannot speak about the budget I don’t have the details. For us, I will advise the leadership of the House, Senate and the Executive that Nigerians…I will address my people when the details of the budget comes.”
Hon. Ken Chikere from Rivers State while making his contribution lamented the stated of roads infrastructure in his State, pleading the House to ensure there was proper implementation of the budget when eventually passed.
He also emphasized the need for know the population of the country to enable it generate the necessary data and statistics for proper budgeting system.
He said: “I plead with the House to see there is proper implementation of the budget. It is our duty now to look at those estimates and come up with a budget. We should be mindful of the implementation of the budget. Lack of implementation is illegal. This country as presently constituted cannot make any progress unless the senate and the house come together.
“We cannot make progress if we don’t know how many we are. We must not be shy in discussing how many we are. We are unproductive 200 million. I am not one of those who are carried away by 200 million population.
“I think this budget should be inclusive. Take the case of Rivers State for instance, there is no single federal government project there. We have a state that is not included in the projects. Our budget should also look at the issue of unemployment, insecurity and general infrastructure.”
Hon. Olarewaju from Kwara while also decrying the imperfections of the budget suggested that a pre-budget making interaction between the legislature and executive be held before any presentation to enable members make input.
He said: “I suggest an interaction between the House and MDAs. Somebody cannot sit in Abuja and tell me what we need in my village. We need to turn our agro produce into finished goods. That way we end insurgency, restiveness in Niger Delta. We can’t run amnesty forever”, he said.
On his part, Hon. Benjamin Kali from Abia State said that while he supported the passage of the budget into second reading, the House should ensure that business climate in Nigeria should be made attractive.
He emphasized the need for the government to patronize made in Nigeria goods to grow the economy.
He said: “My problem is the current business environment that we have. Is high time we reformed the economic environment like Rwanda. We need to patronize our own like innocent motors”, he said.