*Rewane: Nigerians interested in food affordability, not budgetary arithmetics
*Says citizens want to feel impact of government’s economic policies
*Insists ‘you can fake news, but you can’t fake prosperity’
Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
The Senate yesterday started debate on the general principles of the 2024 budget proposal without having details of the fiscal document.
The development at the red chamber might not be unconnected with its determination to speedily approve the appropriation bill before the end of the year.
On the other hand, the House of Representatives also yesterday, commenced debate on the general principle of the 2024 appropriation bill.
However, the Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, yesterday, stressed that Nigerians were not interested in budgetary arithmetics and mathematics, but that they want to see prices of foodstuffs like rice, bread and garri reduced and affordable.
Rewane, who spoke on a Channels Television programme, said beyond the budget figures, what would interest Nigerians would be when prices of food items become affordable
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had presented the estimates to the joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
The President had pleaded with the lawmakers to pass the budget within 30 days.
The appropriation bill passed first reading in both chambers of parliament when President Tinubu presented it.
The red chamber began the consideration, a day after the president’s presentation. The breakdown was however, not available for deliberation.
The development was however, a deviation from the previous budget considerations in the parliament.
He said, “We are representing interests here. Where are the budget details? We need to have the bill. We don’t have any idea on the sectoral allocations and what our constituents will be getting. It is very strange in the parliament.”
Also, Senator Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo (Nasarawa) said lawmakers’ contributions on the budget would be limited because there were no details of the proposals except what the president presented on Wednesday.
Also, Senator Binos Dauda Yaroe (Adamawa) also cautioned against rushing the budget consideration, said the two supplementary budgets earlier passed by the parliament were not thoroughly scrutinised due to inadequate time.
“The development led to series of injustice. We need fairness and equity in the allocation of projects,” he said.
Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, faulted the submissions of his colleagues, saying the Senate had all needed to proceed with the budget consideration.
He added, “During second reading, it is only the merits and demerits of a bill that are debated, not the details.
“The president had talked about the merits and demerits of the 2024 Appropriations bill and what we have before us is the entire speech made by the president yesterday (Wednesday).
“By virtue of our rule 79, we have all it takes to conduct the second reading of the bill.”
Bamidele, while leading the debate, made presentations that were largely based on Tinubu’s budget speech.
He said he believed that all the proposals in the budget were laudable and would enhance the lives of citizens.
Meanwhile, senators during their contributions to the debate, praised Tinubu for the budget proposals, but sought the allocation of capital projects to their constituencies, which they claimed were neglected by the federal government.
“Convert palliatives to capital projects and we will sort ourselves out. Humanitarian and palliatives be converted to roads construction,” said Senator Garba Maidoki (Kebbi).
House Commences Consideration of 2024 Budget
Also, the House of Representatives has commenced debate on the general principle of the 2024 appropriation bill.
At plenary yesterday, lawmakers commended the president for paying special attention to areas of education, healthcare, security, infrastructural development, diversification of the economy, and employment generation.
Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, House leader, Prof. Julius Ihonvbare, said the budget was all about how to make the nation better so that, “those coming behind us will not curse us in the grave.”
He commended the President for capturing the current global issues in his budget speech, adding that the problems around the world have direct impact on Nigerians.
The House Leader added that the appropriation bill drew attention to the Renewed Hope Agenda, pointing the country to where the country was coming from and where it was headed.
He recalled that before the last Assembly passed the Secondary Education Commission bill which was signed into law, Secondary Schools in the country were marred by infrastructural decay.
Ihonvbare, pointed out that this would now be a thing of the past with the coming into existence of the Commission which has been accommodated in the 2024 budget.
In his submission, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, said the budget was the foundation of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Tinubu administration, adding that the work of the parliament would either make or mar the implementation.
He stressed that the President’s presentation was a clear testimony that this was not the time to borrow money to fund personal expenditure and asked the parliament to provide robust oversight, saying if that was not done, the expectations of the Nigerian people will not be met.
Contributing, the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Usman Kumo said the budget points the nation towards stability and a clear indication that the President meant well for the country and was ready to put the country back on track.
He noted that the function of any government was to protect the lives and property of its citizens which he said had adequately been taken care of in the 2024 budget presentation by the President and asked members to support the budget.
On his part, Hon. Ahmed Jaha, said capital allocation and contribution to the development fund of the nation was commendable.
He stressed that as a developing nation, providing a substantial amount of money in the budget showed the seriousness of the government about investing in development projects.
Jaha, added that the decision of the President to pay attention to the diversification of the economy was also commendable, saying it was time the country break away from its mono-economic nature and invest in other sectors like solid minerals, and agriculture.
Also, Hon. Stanley Adedeji, said the budget would move the nation forward, adding that members of the parliament have a responsibility to ensure that it is well implemented.
Rewane: Nigerians Interested in Food Affordability, Not Budgetary Arithmetics
Rewane has said Nigerians were not interested in budgetary arithmetics and mathematics until prices of foodstuffs like rice, bread and garri are reduced and affordable.
Rewane, who spoke on a television programme monitored in Abuja explained: “In the end, budgetary arithmetics, budgetary mathematics in economics, is of no use to anybody except when by this time in six months’ time, if we are buying rice at N40,000 a bag rather than N60,000 a bag, if we are buying bread at N900 a big loaf instead of N1,300, which we are doing today and if we are buying garri at lower prices.
“The people are not interested in whether the budget is balanced or what the debt is. How does it (the budget) affect their day-to-day livelihood? That is the key thing.”
Rewane, while analysing the budget estimates argued that the people were not interested in figures but want to feel the impact of government’s economic policies, saying many citizens were under pressure.
According to him, “As you know, prices are up and people are under tremendous pressure,” adding that the rate of poverty in the country is driving people mad.
“You will notice that on the streets of Lagos in particular, the number of lunatics has increased and part of it is driven by poverty. There are many mental health issues. People are pushed to the wall. Some of them walk across the road, even in moving traffic.
“People need to feel the impact. The impact is not going to be felt because of 10 or 12 per cent of GDP, that is, N27 trillion; it has to be more. Where is the money going to come from?
“It’s going to come from investors and investors are going to come here when they are sure that their money’s safe and the environment is clean, and they can look forward to a brighter future.”
Rewane, urged the federal government to be honest with Nigerians about the economic realities, saying that “honesty is in short supply.”
He said, “You can fake news, but you can’t fake prosperity,” adding that Nigerians must stop pretending that they are happy.