REPS APPROVE N639BN SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET
The House of House of Representatives yesterday approved the amendment of the 2010 Appropriation Act and the Supplementary Budget of N639 billion for the fiscal year. The House went ahead to okay the budget amidst oppositions by other parties over the N10 billion earmarked by the Federal Government to celebrate 50 years of nationhood
The 2010 Supplementary Bills scaled through the second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives, but with doubts by members about the possibility of its implementation. Leading the debate on the Bill, House Leader, Col. Tunde Akogun (retd), said the House agreed to amend the budget based on an agreement reached between the executive and National Assembly before President Goodluck Jonathan signed the 2010 Budget into law.
The president had written to the National Assembly last month, requesting for a slash of the budget because of the prevailing economic indices, which may hamper the funding of the Act.
Specifically, he reminded his colleagues that the president had earlier informed them that there was a significant shortfalls in both oil and non-oil revenue, which according to him, may continue throughout the year and thus pose a threat to the implementation of the budget.
'Given the recent drop in international oil prices from over 80 dollar per barrel to under 70 dollar per barrel, it is prudent to revise the oil benchmark price to a more realistic level,' Jonathan stated in the request to the federal legislature.
But some lawmakers expressed concerns over the N10 billion proposed to celebrate 50 years of independence.
Minority Leader in the House, Alhaji Mohammed Ali Ndume, described the request as insensitive at a time when Nigerians lack access to basic health facilities, education and could hardly feed due to economic hardship.
Ndume, who is the leader of ANPP, accused the executive of commencing expenditure on the anniversary planning when it was yet to get the approval of the National Assembly.
'You don't celebrate on empty stomach. We cannot be celebrating when we cannot provide the basic needs like good health, security for the people and food. I am aware that workers are threatening to go on strike, but if other Nigerians don't have the opportunity to be workers, they should not be made to suffer more.'
Another member, Mr Igo Aguma of the PDP from Rivers state observed that the 2010 budget was already a failure.
According to him, the year had gone as far as July, yet the debate on supplementary budget was still ongoing, which means that the span of the budget would be extended to March 31, 2011.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Committee on Finance, Mr John Eno, argued that there was the need to amend the budget in order to address the challenges posed by the budget to the government.
For instance, he explained that the three tiers of government jointly requires about N5.2 trillion monthly disbursements by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), which now lead to a shortfall of about 27 per cent, as N4.1 trillion was available for disbursement.
Also contributing, the Chairman of Committee on Legislative Budget and Research, Mr Habeeb Fashinro, noted that the budget was heading towards failure because of what he described as 'persistent non utilization of funds by MDAs.'
At the end of debate, the bills were committed to the Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance for further legislative action, in addition to ascertain the level of performance of the 2009 Budget which implementation period elapsed on March 31, 2010.
A motion for the adoption of conference committee report on a Bill for an Act to establish the National Space Research and Development Agency and for matters connected therewith was also approved by the House.