By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senators belonging to the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday 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 President 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 President 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 N400 billion 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 President Buhari for providing N296 billion 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 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.”
Senator 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.