By Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja
A Bill seeking to provide 40 per cent of the country’s annual budget for capital projects in the next 10 years has passed second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who sponsored the Bill, described it as an economic stimulus Bill.
Speaking at the plenary Wednesday, he said that the reason why there were abandoned projects all over the country was as a result of the paltry sum allocated to capital projects.
He argued that the issue of how the federal government would generate revenue to meet up with the 40 per cent target to fund the projects is ‘very simple’, inasmuch as the Executive plug all the loopholes, funding the projects won’t be a problem.
Gbajabiamila said: “The current economic challenges confronting us as a people, coupled with the decaying state of infrastructure across the country, cannot undermine the importance of this Bill which seeks to provide 40 per cent of our annual budget for capital project for the next 10 years.”
He added that the Bill allows the lawmakers to use their legislative instrument, having been empowered by the constitution to support the federal government to improve on the nation’s infrastructure and drive the economy for the next 10 years.
The Bill consists of five sections — Section 1 seeks to provide 40 per cent of the nation’s budget to be earmarked for capital projects for the next 10 year.
Section 2 of the Bill creates some forms of monitoring process to ensure implementation and enforcement by providing that upon commencement, the Accountant General of the Federation shall submit quarterly reports to the National Assembly on the performance of the capital budget and must be submitted within two weeks after the end of a corresponding quarter.
Under sub section 2 of section 2, the National Assembly shall within two weeks consider the report of the Accountant General of the Federation and if not satisfied shall pass the necessary resolution to ensure implementation and performance by the president.
Section 3 provides that the Bill shall be in force for a period of 10 years after which there shall be a review by the National Assembly.
Section 4 makes provision for penalty of five years imprisonment or a fine of N50 million or both for violation or any attempt by any person to frustrate the implementation of the Bill when passed. This stringent punitive measure suggests that the current state of infrastructure and economy are not such to be handled with kids gloves.
Under section 5, the Bill is cited as ‘Economy Stimulus Bill’.
The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, who led the debate on behalf of the Speaker, said that a critical look at the 2020 budget showed that just 10 per cent was earmarked for capital projects.
He said the Bill therefore aims at correcting these anomalies synonymous with the country’s budgetary process over the years.
He pointed out that one of the things that can make the country grow significantly is to provide critical infrastructure, noting that those infrastructure cannot be provided if there is no significant allocation to capital projects.
Also, Hon. Dachung Bagos stressed the need to have such a Bill to guide the Executive in order to make sure that the country’s budget doesn’t end up with recurrent expenditure and debt servicing.
On his part, Hon AbdulGaniyu Johnson said that recurrent items and overhead items are been lumped together under capital projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), but added that the proposed legislation would be a catalyst for the development of the country.
The House therefore referred the Bill to its Committee on Finance and Appropriation.