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2012 Budget: National Assembly Oppose N921B Earmarked For Security

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ABUJA, December 15, (THEWILL) - The National Assembly Thursday said the N921.91 billion earmarked for security in the 2012 budget proposal presented by President Goodluck Jonathan was too much and would be slashed.

The two chambers of the Assembly in their separate sessions described the budgetary provision as bogus and feared most of it may end up in private pockets.

The Chairman of the House committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Mohamed Zakari who made this declaration during a press briefing said the security allocation would be cut with funds moved to power, agriculture and education sectors.

The President had last Tuesday presented a N4.749 trillion budget out of which N921.91 billion was proposed for security, N400 billion for education, N79.98 billion for agriculture, N161 billion for power and N180 billion for works, N282 billion for health, N59.72 billion for Niger Delta, N39 billion for water resources, N59.66 billion for petroleum resources and N45.57 billion for the FCDA amongst others.

At the briefing, Zakari said “the defence budget is on the high side while that of power is slim. Defence is almost like a trillion and we will look at a way of scaling it down and may be moving it to power, agriculture and education. We believe these areas should get more.

“The House is definitely going to dissect every part of the budget and appropriate funds appropriately. It is not going to be business as usual as the Speaker has promised. We will be thorough in our oversight,” he stated.

The House spokesman also reiterated that the House position on fuel subsidy remains irrevocable insisting that “the House has not endorsed subsidy removal. The conditions we gave have not been met. The refineries must work first.”

He allayed the fears of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that the budget proposal was a disaster waiting to happen saying, the House has resolved to work for the interest of the common Nigerian and would not allow petroleum subsidy to be removed arbitrarily.

According to him, “I do not look at the document as a disaster. NLC should not entertain any feat. We will look at the budget and as far as we are concerned the status quo is maintained.”

Mohammed also said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and 32 other federal agencies that have not presented their budgets for National Assembly approval must do so this time. He said it would be ‘criminal’ for the CBN and the agencies not to comply with the constitutional provision.

“It is criminal for the NNPC not to bring its budget here, it will be illegal. But I will assure you that they must bring their budget. So many issues are involved and the oil subsidy issue is still hanging,” he stated.

According to the details of the budget released by the minister of finance, Dr. (Mrs) Okonjo-Iweala, the office of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi is to spend a total of N124 billion as capital and recurrent spending while the Presidential Amnesty programme on Niger Delta has been allocated N74 billion. The NSA’s recurrent expenditure is N59.64 billion while the capital budget is N64.63 billion.

Other security agencies are, the Police formation and commands (N307.8 billion), defence, ministry of defence, army, navy and air force (N326.35 billion), interior ministry (N157 billion), police affairs ministry (N6.1 billion) and police service commission (N2.47 billion).

The amount is to be shared out as follows: stipends and feeding allowance (N48 billion), operations cost (N20.796 billion), reintegration of transformed Niger Delta ex-militants, 2010 arrears (N4.174 billion) and reintegration of Niger Delta ex-militants (N925 million).

In the Senate, most senators who spoke during the debate on the general principles of the budget warned that the National Assembly as an institution would no longer accept any excuse from the executive for non implementation of the budget.

The lawmakers who described the N1.3trillion (28percent) for capital project as too poor however explaining the need to closely monitor the handling of the proposed N921 billion for security. The lawmakers also noted that the proposed N3 trillion for recurrent expenditure representing 78 percent of the budget cost was a negation of government’s resolve to cut down the cost of governance.

Senators at the debate faulted the ‘jumbo allocation for security.’ Most of them feared that most of the funds would not be accounted for like security votes for governors and president.

Those who spoke include Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba who in his lead debate said the budget proposal is a stepping stone to the transformation of the nation’s economy and its walk to economic freedom.

Others are Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who appealed to the government for consultations while preparing future budgets; Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Ganiyu Solomon; Senator Bernabas; Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi who faulted the allocation to the security sector saying it is four times what was allocated to health; Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi) who queried how security allocation is being spent and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who disagreed with the allocation to the agricultural sector.