- Lawmakers justify increases in appropriation
- House Câ€™ttee directs NNPC to disclose cost of imported petrol
Abimbola Akosile in Lagos and James Emejo in Abuja
The spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas has said the N125 billion budget appropriated to the National Assembly still represented a shortfall when compared to the prevailing exchange rate.
His assertion came against a backdrop of criticism by the public over the huge allocations to lawmakers in recent times as well as the 2017 budget, where the National Assembly had further raised its appropriation by N10 billion.
The 2017 budget of N7.441 trillion is also N143 billion higher than the N7.29 trillion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to lawmakers in December 2016.
Namdas told THISDAY that the National Assembly ought to have restored its budget to N150 billion as obtained previously in view of the current exchange rate fluctuation but reconsidered its thought given that Nigerians are currently feeling the impact of the recession.
He said: â€œLet me tell you, before I came into the National Assembly, it used to be N150 billion. When I came, I realised N30 billion had been taken off. It was N120 billion and later N115 billion but I want to tell you that even if we had brought it back to N150 billion, it still shows that we are running a shortfall because the exchange rate at that time is not the same as this particular time.â€
He said he doesnâ€™t believe the N10 billion increase was too much on the part of the legislators.
He said: â€œGo back and look, when it was N150 billion, what was the exchange rate at that time and whatâ€™s the value of the naira? And now that we are taking it at N125 billion, whatâ€™s the value today?
â€œI think we should be very calculative here; we are still working below the N150 billion, in fact, if you look at it, itâ€™s within N70 billion as at the time it used to be N150. There are issues; we have a lot of legislative activities to be done here and additional N10 billion, I think itâ€™s not much.â€
Namdas said the 2017 budget was â€œOne of the most beautiful budgets ever passed by the National Assembly. We are happy we finally passed the budget,â€ he said.
Furthermore, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Works, Hon. Amuda Abubakar Garba (APC, Kwara) told THISDAY the 2017 budget was a significant improvement over previous appropriations given that 30 per cent was budgeted for capital projects and 40 per cent for recurrent spending.
Garba said previous budgets had a whopping 60 per cent to 65 per cent allocation to recurrent vote. He argued that the N143 billion increase in the entire budget was justified following the review in the oil benchmark from $42.50 per barrel to $44.50 per barrel as well as projected increase in production volume.
He further expressed optimism that the 2017 budget will help the country spend out of the current recession.
Also reacting to the budget, Chairman, House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) said the budget had been scrutinised by the appropriation committee, blocking all possible leakages. He expressed confidence that Nigerians will feel the impact of the budget in view of the capital component which had been significantly increased.
He described the 2017 budget as a consolidation on the previous appropriation as well as the countryâ€™s gradual exit from the current recession.
Meanwhile, the Houseâ€™s Ad hoc Committee on Review of Pump Price of Petrol has directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries to make public the true cost of imported petrol.
The Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Raphael Igbokwe, gave the directive in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Lagos.
Igbokwe spoke on the sidelines of the committeeâ€™s visit to Lagos depots of some private operators involved in transportation and distribution of petrol from the ports to the consumers.
The depots visited by the committee included Folawiyo Energy Ltd, WOSBAB Energy Solutions, First Royal and Stallionaire Oil & Gas Limited.
According to him, NNPC and its subsidiaries sourced 90 per cent of petrol while private marketers sourced only 10 per cent of the product into the country.
â€œThe reason for our curiosity and unannounced visit to some depots is that our investigation shows that importation of petrol is no longer profitable to the private marketers and dealers.
â€œThe issue is how come that only the government agencies are engaging in the importation and supply of petrol? This will make us to compel them to open their (NNPC and subsidiaries) books for Nigerians to know the true cost of importation of petrol,â€ Igbokwe said.
The chairman said the committee would find out from neighbouring countries and refineries the cost of petrol per litre. He said the committee got authentic information from a reliable source that the price of petrol was around N230 to N250 per litre in neighbouring countries.
Igbokwe noted that the official landing cost of petrol was about N130 to N135. He said the committee, however, received information that the landing cost of petrol was higher than the N145 official rate fixed by government.
Igbokwe commended the management of Folawiyo Energy and WOSBAB Energy for being diligent in their operations. He directed the management of First Royal to appear before the committee on May 26 to present its record of operation and explain why it failed to honour two previous invitations by the committee.
According to Igbokwe, officials of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR), had on Thursday sealed Stallionaire Oil & Gas depot at Satellite Town, Lagos due to inadequate storage facilities.
He said the committee would not shield any depot firm frustrating governmentâ€™s efforts at making fuel available and affordable to Nigerians.