Tordue Salem, Abuja
The 2021 Appropriation Bill, divisions on some of its subheads, notwithstanding, was referred to the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
The N13.082 trillion 2021 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu last week, split the legislators for a second time, since Tuesday, on its general principles.
Some lawmakers punctured the allocation of N5.65 trillion to non-debt recurrent expenditure, as against a much lower N3.85 trillion for capital projects, with a whopping as a fiscal deficit of N5.20 trillion.
Others, however, saw an N1.15 trillion rise in the Capital component of the money Bill, from the 2020 provision of N2.69 trillion. They pointed out hikes in allocations to defence, education, agriculture and other key sectors of the economy.
But harder knocks followed: Rep Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta), held that though the 2021 budget is entitled, “Budget of Recovery”, the gaping deficit, built-in, best described it as a 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 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, Rep. Richard Gbande (PDP-Benue) on his part, said: “if we look at the other avenues of financing the deficit budget if we look at the 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”.
The House Chief Whip, Rep. Mohammed Monguno(APC-Borno), weighed in, with his demand for a raise in the allocation to the Northeast.
According to him, “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 a deplorable state due to Boko Haram”.
The Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa(APC-Kano), however, put up a staunch defence for the budget. He was impressed by what he thought was a raise in the earmark for security.
“I believe the document will be given consideration. Mr Speaker, I still want to add that going within 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”, he opined.
The money instrument was subsequently referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.
Defence of the allocations in the budget estimate would commence next week, with relevant committees taking submissions from Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
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)”.
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