By Deji Elumoye
The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, has disclosed that the revised 2020 Appropriation Act suffered over $14 billion loss due to the nation’s overdependence on oil.
Lawan, who made this known in his welcome address as the Senate resumed plenary after a two-month vacation, told his colleagues that Nigeria was faced with a $14 billion revenue shortage during the current fiscal year.
“We were confronted with over $14 billion revenue gap and the grim reality of an unwholesome overdependence on oil,” he stressed.
According to him, there is an urgent need to focus on other important sectors like agriculture, solid minerals, steel development and manufacturing, with a view to diversifying the nation’s economy, adding that: “We need to work with relevant stakeholders to prevent our economy going into a recession, stimulate the economy, save and create more jobs through a sustainable multiplier effect.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, he further stated, disrupted the federal budgetary plans, requiring the review of the 2020 budget and the upper chamber carrying out oversights to ensure that the revised 2020 Budget is properly implemented.
“The Senate needs to pay particular attention to the implementation of the Federal Government Economic Sustainability Plan. This strategic plan is an essential means of revamping our economy, as it provides interventions in the Mass Agricultural Programme, Infrastructure, Mass Housing Programme, and Investments in Healthcare Infrastructure, among others,” he said.
Lawan also announced that President Muhammadu Buhari will next week present the 2021 budget estimate to the joint session of the National Assembly as its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning had completed work on the 2021-202 Medium Term Expenditure and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTF/FSP) during the vacation.
He said: “Our Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning with Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTF/FSP) during the recess interacted with over 300 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) over the issues of revenue heneration and remittances to the federal government.
“The joint committee is expected to present its report to the Senate today for consideration and this is a precursor to the presentation of the 2021 Budget estimates by the executive arm of government soon. I am aware that the executive will be presenting the 2021 Budget estimates by next week.
“The Senate will provide a one month window for budget defence by ministries, departments and agencies. Like last year, the month of October 2020 will be dedicated for this exercise. Subsequent months of November and December will be dedicated to the internal processing of the Budget by National Assembly. The various MDAs are therefore advised to ensure that they avail themselves the opportunity of the budget defence window to appear with all the relevant and necessary information to defend their budget estimates.”
The Senate President also expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the country, saying: “The security situation in our country is not what we want it to be, we want a security situation that guarantees protection of lives and property of citizens.
“Today, our country is bedevilled by multifaceted security challenges. We therefore need to continuously seek enduring measures to arrest the situation. In this regard, the Senate will continue to provide the necessary legislative intervention at all times to improve the situation. There can never be any more important government function than the protection of lives and property of its citizens,” Lawan said.