National Assembly Complex
Onwuka Nzeshi and Dele Ogbodo
The two chambers of the National Assembly in a unanimous resolution Thursday passed the 2013 budget for a second reading.
In the Senate, its President, Senator David Mark, said the bill for the Act authorising the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N4.924 trillion, of which, N380.020 billion 000, 000 only is for statutory transfer, N591.764 billion only is for Debt Service; N2. 412 trillion, is for recurrent expenditure, while N1. 540 trillion is for capital expenditure.
Similarly, the House of Representatives yesterday concluded debates on the general principles of the N4.924 trillion 2013 Appropriation Bill.
Debates on the budget which began on Tuesday, featured more lawmakers and culminated in its passage through the second reading stage.
The lawmakers were however divided on the issue of the proposed waivers in the aviation, agriculture and mass transit sectors of the economy.
Speaking on the motion that was brought for debate by the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Mark stated the key issue on the budget has to do with implementation.
He said: “Whatever we say about the budget, if we can implement what is passed faithfully then we wouldn’t be having the complaints that we have and again the ball is back to our court.”
After the adoption for the second reading, the bill was referred to the Finance and Appropriation committees for further deliberation.
While making his contribution Senator, Gyang Pwajok, representing Plateau North, said the main issue on the budget stemmed from N711 billion released to Ministries Departments adding Agencies (MDAs) for implementation of capital projects adding that further release had followed shortly for the fourth quarter as has been bedeviled without adequate release of funds. Her said: “Yet there is domestic borrowing of N744billion in 2012, the contradiction here is that why release less than a certain amount and still go borrowing while a certain amount is left unutilised.
“I feel achieving inclusive growth requires a thorough assessment of not only who gets what, we must also look at when and how and the cost. We have to continue to borrow and even going further to establish a sinking fund of N100 billion for repayments and in a budget where the capital expenditure is less than than 30 percent and yet capital expenditure that has been approved of N711 billion only half of it is being utilized and yet we are borrowing,” he said.
According to Senator Ayogu Eze, the reason for the failure of the 2012 budget has to do largely with the non-release of funds to the ministries.
He said: “I want to say we shouldn’t stay here bickering about which Agencies which receive what or not what we should be concerned about is about implementation, these monies that have budgeted to different ministries, have they been released.
“What I’m saying is that emphasis should be first of all should be that monies allocated to those projects are released. “I that in Works Ministry for instance a lot of projects that are in this year’s budget are not being implemented, a lot of people have called me to say that roads in their areas are impassable, I think that we should lay emphasis on monies are provided they are released.”
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, opposed the waivers contained in the budget, saying they were being granted by presidential fiat without consideration on its impact on the revenue profile.
Gbajabiamila argued that such waivers should have been presented to the National Assembly for legislative vetting before being granted.
“The budget presented contains a number of waivers by presidential fiat that seeks to reduce the revenue that comes to the country. We are talking about deficit and we are reducing revenue. It does not add up and does not make sense to give away revenue and later borrow to finance budget deficit,” he said.
However, Deputy House Leader, Hon Leo Ogor, expressed a divergent opinion. According to Ogor, the waivers were proposed with the best of intentions to promote investments in different sectors. He said the waivers were certainly good for the long term growth of the economy.
President Goodluck Jonathan had in the 2013 budget presented to joint sessions of the National Assembly announced that government would continue to implement supportive fiscal measures for some priority areas.
He said that with effect from January 2013, machinery and spare parts imported for local sugar manufacturing industries will now attract zero per cent duty including a five-year tax holiday for “sugarcane to sugar” value chain investors.
In addition, all commercial aircraft and aircraft spare parts imported for use in Nigeria will now attract zero per cent duty and zero per cent Value Added Tax (VAT).
Also, to encourage the production of mass transit vehicles in Nigeria, duty on Completely Knocked Down (CKD) components for mass transit buses of at least 40-seater capacity, will now be zero per cent, down from five per cent.
The bill has been referred to the House Committees on Finance and Appropriation for further legislative inputs.
In his closing remarks, the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, gave marching orders to all the standing committees to scrutinise the budget estimates to ensure that only the right things were done.
He said the expected savings should be channelled to capital projects and enhance the capacity of the government to create employment.
Meanwhile, the House has proceeded on a two-week break to enable the committees scrutinise the budget.
The House will resume plenary on November 6, after the Sallah holidays.