•Senate concludes debate on N20.51trn fiscal estimates
•Appropriation bill passes second reading in both chambers
•House disagrees on deadline for subsidy removal
•Buhari’s decision to end subsidy on eve of his exit political, not patriotic, says Deputy Minority Leader
Sunday Aborisade and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Senate and House of Representatives yesterday passed for second reading the N20.51 trillion 2023 budget presented to the National Assembly last Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The approval of the appropriation bill at the upper chamber followed a robust debate on its general principles by senators.
Many of the federal lawmakers, however, frowned at rising recurrent expenditure component national budget on yearly basis.
One of the lawmakers, Senator Ali Ndume ( APC Borno South), urged his colleagues to thoroughly investigate the rising recurrent expenditure despite embargo placed on employment by the federal government and hundreds of retirees recorded on yearly basis .
He noted with concern the N8.2 trillion earmarked for recurrent expenditure in the proposed N20.51 trillion 2023 budget, which he said, constituted 43 per cent of the entire budget profile.
Ndume said, “Mr President, our relevant committees, should thoroughly scrutinise proposals made in the N20.51trn 2023 budget by the executive, particularly the recurrent expenditure component which has been rising on yearly basis.
“Statistically, in the 2018 budget recurrent expenditure vote was N3.5 trillion, in 2019 it increased to N4.7 trillion, rose again in 2020 to N4.8 trillion, in 2021 N5.9 trillion, 2022 N6.9 trillion and astronomically projected as N8.2 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year.
“The yearly increases are even happening in the face of embargo placed on employment in all the federal ministries, departments and agencies apart from the hundreds of civil servants retiring on yearly basis as well.
“The Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, need to critically look into it this time around, more so, with attendant increase in the votes of debt servicing which is projected to be N6.31 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year and far higher than capital vote of N5.35 trillion.
” Mr. President and very distinguished colleagues, we must thorough look into budgetary proposals made by the executive to prevent a situation of borrowing money for payment of workers’ salaries,” he said.
Other Senators who made contributions like Tolu Odebiyi (APC Ogun West), Jibril Isah ( APC Kogi East), Betty Apiafi ( PDP Rivers West), among others, frowned at the rising votes of recurrent expenditure.
Apiafi added in her contribution that the issue of oil theft should be looked into very critically as well as other areas of revenue leakages.
She said, “In August this year, from 1.82 million barrels oil production expected from Nigeria per day, the country was only able to produce 972 million barrels per day, losing 859 million barrels per day to oil thieves.
“The loss in the stated month, translated into $59 million per day and N9.5 trillion per annum.
” This dangerous revenue loss must be stopped in the general interest of all,” she said.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan in his remarks after the passage of the budget for second reading, bemoaned the huge loss of revenue due to high scale oil theft and called for appropriate sanctions against the perpetrators.
Lawan charged the committees of the Senate to, in the course of the budget defence, ensure critical scrutiny of the submissions and trace any leakage or wastages contained in it.
The Senate thereafter, adjourned plenary to November 15, for consideration of the budget proposals at committee level.
Also, the Senate yesterday passed the N607,952,023,580.00 2022 budget of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for second reading. Members of the red chamber in their various contributions, expressed dismay in the late presentation of the FCT Statutory Appropriation Bill, 2022 for consideration.
They warned against future occurrence.
The Senate Leader, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, in his lead debate, noted that the 2022 FCT Statutory Appropriation Bill seeks to authorise the issue from the Federal Capital Territory Administration Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Capital Territory Administration Account, the total sum of N607,952,023,580.00 only.
He said the sum of N76,569,904,857.00 had been earmarked for personnel costs, N138,199,851,110.00 for overhead costs, while the balance of N393,182,267,614.00 was for capital projects, “for the Service of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for the financial year commencing from 1st January and ending 31 December, 2022.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on the FCT, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC – Kogi West), supported the bill and pledged his panel’s readiness to give it accelerated consideration, the fact that it was transmitted too late notwithstanding.
On his part, Senator James Manager, (PDP – Delta South), decried a situation where the 2022 statutory appropriation of the FCT was being considered for second reading in October 2022 – less than two months and half months to the end of the year.
In a related development, the Senate yesterday passed the N65,905,252,467 budget of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPFTF) for 2022.
The amount was made up of personnel expenditure of N948,810,609.29, total overhead costs; N8,857,106,527.44 and total capital expenditure of N56,099,335,330.35.
The Senate passed the budget after it considered and adopted the harmonised report of its Committee on Police Affairs and that of the House of Representatives.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Halliru Dauda Jika identified the revenue sources for the proposed budget as; 0.5% of the total revenue accrued to the federation account which is N52,569,086,241.00.
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives at plenary yesterday passed for second reading the 2023 Appropriation Bill presented to the parliament last week by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The budget of N20.51 trillion which was well debated on by the lawmakers, commenced with main focus on crude oil theft, revenue shortfall, education, insecurity and rising debt profile.
Lawmakers belonging to the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while taking turns to express concerns over the borrowing by the present administration, disagreed that the deadline for subsidy removal as announced by President Muhammadu Buhari shouldn’t be early next year.
The House Leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (APC, Kano) leading the debate on the bill’s general principles, urged his colleagues to exhibit a sense of nationalism and the fiscal document their supports.
He noted that provision had been made to address petroleum subsidy payments, adding that six months from now, the country would go into free subsidy regime.
“For three years we have exhibited all sense of nationalism. It’s a budget of transition because it is his last budget. We should also transit into the right government to continue the work Buhari left. The government has shown enough concern to address insecurity, infrastructure and so on.
“No government is happy when insecurity or infrastructure is deteriorating. The ASUU strike, the House waded in and we are providing funding to solve the lingering issue,” Doguwa said
In his contribution, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) while lamenting the rising crude oil theft, faulted the move by Buhari to end subsidy payment from the second half of next year.
Okechukwu recalled how Buhari when he was vying for the presidency in 2014, had claimed that petrol subsidy was a scam.
He wondered while this ‘scam’ has continued to run and it’s been amplified by Buhari’s government, saying that it meant Buhari’s decision was political and not driven by patriotism.
The Deputy Minority Leader therefore called for extension of the deadline, saying it would create a lot of crisis for the next government taking over.
“It is quite important to state that the things the budget does not contain are critical. First and foremost, the benchmarks as established, will N435 exchanging to the dollar? In the parallel market, it is N740 to a dollar. It’s a complete distortion of reality and we have operated that way, running two rates regarding to the exchange rate of this country.
“Mr. Speaker, the benchmark we have as per OPEC quota is 1.69 million barrels per day. Today, what we have set out to do is less than 1.8 million that we should be doing. “Unfortunately, in the Niger Delta, the level of theft and the heist that is going on in the oil industry has made this impossible. Suddenly, we are discovering that a pipeline has been existing for the harvest of petroleum products and it not official.
“They have a platform that is out there in the sea and we are supposed to have electronic security gadgets monitoring the sectors and suddenly, we are paying privately security contractors to do our supervision in the oil sector and they are discovering shiploads of petroleum products.
“Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, it is quite unfortunate that we have people superintending this and it is happening in their very faces and nobody has been sacked.
“What is also sad is that the level of borrowing that has been done.”
Corroborating Okechukwu’s statements, Hon. Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) said the 2023 budget, “a budget of transition, and sustainability, should answer its name appropriately and address the issue of subsidy.”
According to him, ending subsidy June next year was a ticking time bomb for the next administration.
Luke also advised that the money to be allocated to the education sector should be well utilised to avert another strike action.
On reducing cost of governance, the lawmaker flayed the reluctance of the president to implement the Oronsaye’s report, as promised.
On his part, the Chief Whip, Hon. Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno) faulted the opposition lawmakers’ assertions that the country’s debt was no longer sustainable.
Monguno was of the view that the government deserves a pat in the back for keeping debt-to-GDP ratio within the sustainable limit allowed by the international threshold.
He advised his colleagues to beam more searchlights on revenue generating agencies so that whatever revenue they generate would be brought to government coffers.
Also contributing, Hon. Leke Abejide (ADC, Kogi) lamented that 2022 was coming to an end yet most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government had not awarded contracts for projects despite that money has been released to them.
On revenue shortfall, he opined that revenue generating agencies were not doing what they ought to do, adding that there are so many leakages, saying what was discouraging people from blocking the leakages was because the reward system was so poor.