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Reps pass 2021 appropriation bill for second reading

The 2021 Appropriation Bill passed the second reading at the House of Representatives on Wednesday after a two-day debate on the general principles of the national budget by members.

The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, after the second reading, transmitted the money bill to the House Committee on Appropriations, with the standing committees of the House serving as sub-committees.

The Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government are expected to appear before relevant committees to defend their proposals in the budget.

During the debate on Wednesday, several members commended and condemned various proposals in the bill.

While some lawmakers faulted provisions that were inadequate to meet the demands of their constituents, others commended the government for releasing over 50 per cent of the 2020 capital budget.

A member, Nicholas Ossai, however, described the bill as “a budget of hardship” and not ‘A Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience’ as the regime led by the President, Major General Muhammadu (retd.), named it.

Ossai said after X-raying the budget, he discovered that almost half of the budget was in deficit.

He, said “A lot of people have described this appropriation bill as a bill of recovery and the future. But to me, after X-raying the document, including the projected revenue and the money that has been budgeted for, I see it as a budget of hardship; a budget of hardship because the projected revenue is N7.8tn while the actual budget estimate is N13.08tn. If you minus that, we are having a deficit of almost 50 per cent.

“We are servicing debt in the 2020 budget with almost N3.5tn and the 2021 budget with about N4.2tn. Is that a budget of recovery or hardship?

The lawmaker added, “I looked at the NDDC budget at N65bn. You will agree with me that the Federal Government owes NDDC N1.6tn. This is a place where you intend to generate money to run the economy. You have places where ships cannot sail and they have the waterways; a place where the transport ministry lays emphasis only on railway.

“What is the multiplier effect in a micro perspective of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line? If I listen carefully to the information ministry, that particular rail is running at a loss. It means that in the next 10 years, you will not be able to raise money to pay the debt.

“I have seen the government budget of N25bn for youth empowerment and we wonder why the youths are on the roads demonstrating. We are budgeting N13tn, yet cannot set aside N100bn for youth employment, and we sit down here and call it a budget of recovery. It is actually a budget of hardship.”

Ossai said he also discovered that the Federal Government was investing over N900bn in the energy sector “that we have agreed is not working” working even when several distribution companies cannot distribute power effectively.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, further said, “We are tying up agreement that we are doing counterpart funding at N710bn under the multilateral and bilateral agreements that have been signed, yet no single agreement has been deposited in this chamber. I am raising that, so that at the end of the day, you won’t say that the National Assembly has passed it.”

Another member, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who is Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, also complained about the N1.6tn the government owes the commission.

The lawmaker decried that there was nothing in the budget that suggested that the government was prepared to pay the money to NDDC.

Tunji-Ojo urged the House to mandate its Committee on Finance to interface with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to get a list of monies released for capital projects to enable members carry out comprehensive oversight function over the MDAs on the utilisation of the money.

Chairman of the House Committee on Health Services, Tanko Sununu, decried the low amount voted to the health sector, which he said was contrary to the provision of the National Health Act which states that allocation to the health sector in the annual budget should not be less than 1 per cent of the total budget.

Sununu pointed out that the N35bn allocated to the health sector was less than 1 per cent of the N13.08tn budget.

In his submission, Mohammed Wudil said there were over 20 million unemployed youths in the country, stressing the need to pay special attention to unemployment.

Punch

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