By Christiana Ekpa
The N13.8trn 2021 Appropriation Bill passed second reading in the House of Representatives on Wednesday after after two days of heated debate, amidst disagreements among members of the House on its general principles.
The 2021 budget was presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu last week divided members apart during the two days debate with many opposing and others supporting.
Those against some provisions of 2021 Appropriation Act faulted the allocation of N5.65 trillion to non-debt recurrent expenditure which is higher than aggregate sum of N3.85 trillion proposed for capital projects as well as the budget deficit projection of N5.20 trillion.
However, those who spoke in support of the 2021 budget said alluded to the increase in the 2021 capital budget which is N1.15 trillion higher than the 2020 provision of N2.69 trillion, increased allocations to defence, education, agriculture and other critical sectors.
In his debate Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) said though the 2021 budget is titled budget of recovery but the huge deficit could make it budget of hardship.
“A lot of people describes this budget as a budget of recovery but I see it as a budget of hardship, because the projected revenue is N7.8 trillion. We are servicing the 2020 at three point something trillion and in 2021 we are servicing at N4.2 trillion, is that a budget of recovery? That’s a budget of hardship”, he argued.
Also speaking, Richard Gbande (PDP, Benue) said: “if we look at the other avenues of financing the deficit budget, if we look at sell of government assets, surplus proceeds for the government owned enterprises but if you look at the 2020 budget and other budgets before this 2021 budget you will discover that it is very difficult to meet the appropriated target so we have to look inwards”.
On his part, the House Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno who spoke in support of the budget asked the Executive arm to increase budgetary allocation to the Northeastern part of the country due to deplorable state of infrastructure in the region.
Monguno also called on the government to focus more attention on the agricultural sector, which accounts for about 70 percent of employment, not just in Nigeria, but also in the entire African continent.
“Over the years, there’s no region that has been getting low allocation like the North East. I call on the government to improve the allocation to the North East. Our roads and other infrastructure are in deplorable state due to Boko Haram,”, he said.
In his concluding debate, Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa defended the huge expenditure on security saying it was aimed at achieving the socioeconomic development of the country.
Ado-Doguwa said: “I believe the document will be given consideration.
Mr Speaker, I still want to add that going with the spirit of our commitment to liaise and operate on the same page with the executive, I will like to charge, the standing Committees Chairmen who will be dissolved as sub committees into the main Appropriation Committee, but we must not compromise in any way the unprecedented achievements we have made to reverse to the January-December budget cycle”.
The Bill was referred to the House Committee on Appropriation, hence other standing Committees would work as Sub- Committees under it to invite Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for budget defence after which the Bill (budget) would be passed for third reading.
Clerk to the House read the long title of Bill as:”A Bill for an Act to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N13,082,420,568,233 of which N484,488,471,273 only is for Statutory Transfers, N3,344,380,000,000 only is for Debt Service, N5,649,872,137,888 only is for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure while the sum of N3,603,679,959,070 only is for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending December, 2021 (HB.1069)”.