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Debate On 2014 Appropriation Bill

Source: pointblanknews.com

By Deputy Minority Leader, House Of Reps', Hon. Suleiman Kawu.

 Mr Speaker and Honourable Colleagues Here we are again. Year in-year out we gather in this hallow chamber to do a critic of money Bills, this has been a legitimate tradition Nigerians now term as 'mere rhetoric', 'noise without action', and interestingly 'empty exercise'.

I would premise my contribution to this debate on Section 16 subsection 2 (c) which stipulates that “the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production an exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group..”

The proposals in this 2014 appropriation bill are in sharp contrast to this provision of the law. Despite promises to device ways of significantly increasing capital expenditure, the government had in the 2014 budget proposed to increase recurrent expenditure which has little or no impact on the lives of the people of Kano which I represent and indeed the entire country. The proposed budget expenditure of N4.642 trillion is higher than the expected revenue of N3.731 trillion. So this budget comes with N912 billion fiscal deficit. The estimated fiscal deficit is 83% of the proposed total capital expenditure of N1.1 trillion. Mr. Speaker, Hon Colleagues this is voodoo economics. Should the government fail to meet its fiscal deficit financing plan, the little capital projects in the budget would bleed till another fiscal year.

For the National Assembly not to appear as an agent of poverty recycling. This fiscal deficit must be trimmed down by ensuring that abuse of tax waivers which has consistently crippled our revenue projection is discouraged in a legitimate manner that seems to bring relevance to Section 29 subsection (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which restricted the Minister from approving tax relief that adversely impair the revenue estimates in the annual budget.

The budget proposal for the power sector doesn't portray that the private sector had taken over the industry. Compare to the days when the telecommunication sector was privatized, the federal government is still budgeting for development of hydro power plants. The government want to set up a 215MW gas power plant at 3.7 billion, 2.3billion for development of hydro power plant, construction of 10MW Wind farm at 1 billion amongst others. Is it the case that government want to feed the private electricity companies with public fund?

It also appears that the 2014 appropriation bill caters more for the militants than our national security agencies. The sum of N63 billion is expected to cover stipends and allowances of 30,000 Niger Delta Militants, reintegration of transformed ex-militants and amnesty programmes while the total capital budget allocated to the Nigeria Army, Ministry of Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Formations is pegged at N41.08 billion. This is a clear message that the government of the day is not serious about stemming the insurgency in Northern Nigeria. The House must ensure that this misplacement of priority is reversed.

This budget is far from being a pro economic stimulus budget. The Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation is proposing recurrent expenditure of N186.4 billion for security services. While the security agencies attached to the office of the SGF have their own budget; this strange proposal implies that the OSGF would be engaging private security services for its own protection. Now we know better that rising recurrent expenditure is not only due to payment salaries but a product of our retrogressive economic drivers.

Mr Speaker, Hon. Colleagues it is my belief that reformative education is the antidote to the insurgency in Northern Nigeria. The total allocation of N493.46 billion including statutory transfer of about N70.47billion to UBEC, which account for just 10.6% of the entire 2014 budget. This fall short of the 26% UNESCO benchmark. Of this 493.46 billion, 90% is for recurrent expenditure and only 10% for capital expenditure. This is ratio 90:10 which is even worse than the overall recurrent to capital expenditure ratio of 77:23 of the entire 2014 budget. Again, we now know better reasons why ASUU would always go on strike and why our students would not be able to compete internationally. Astonishingly the President would be buying his customized cutleries and glassware in the State House at N76.3 Million. Perhaps may be those who drafted this budget got educated through the backdoor.

Mr Speaker, Hon Colleagues let me conclude that this is not a pro-job or pro-development budget but a fiscal smokescreen for poverty recycling. We must ensure that we compel all government officials including ourselves to make sacrifices on behalf our people who had long been starved of social safety net by reducing the recurrent expenditure and frivolous spending that accompanied this 2014 appropriation bill. We must ensure that 2015 politicking does not distract us from playing our oversight role on this budget because those who designed this retrogressive budget are only waiting to take advantage of legislative hibernation.

Thank You