50th Independence Anniversary:  Senators Kick Against N10B Allocation

Source: EMMA UCHE - thewillnigeria.com

ABUJA, July 01, (THEWILL) - Senators today kicked against the allocation of N10 billion for the 50th anniversary celebration. Most among the opponents described it as unnecessary and not reflective of the realities on ground.

Also the 2010 N4.206 trillion Budget Amendment bill passed through second reading in the senate today.

The Senators had suspended action on debate of the bill last Tuesday. The principal budget was N4.608 trillion.

The Senators in same vein, walked the N639 billion supplementary appropriation bill pass the second reading.

However, some Senators kicked against the N10 billion allocation for the 50th year anniversary celebration, while cutting the 2010 budget by 40 percent. Some described it as unrealistic.

Leading onslaught against the allocation, Senator Dahiru Kuta said, "there is corruption in the high places in the implementation of this budget. We allowed the budget to go without thinking of employment. There are abandoned projects all over the places. Budgeting N10 billion for 50th independent anniversary I think is on the high side. It should be slashed to the barest minimum.

Senator Joseph Akaagerger (PDP, Benue); "Look at the financial status of Nigeria? There is nothing to celebrate, there should be zero allocation."

To Senator Andrew Babalola (PDP, Oyo) "The celebration should be removed and the N10 billion budgeted used to create job opportunities for unemployed Nigeria youths. Capital budget should be a central issue, where priority should be considered. The celebration should be removed and the N10 billion used to create job opportunities for jobless Nigerians."

Expectedly, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora (AC, Lagos) declared, "There cannot be supplementary without substantive. From 1999 till now it has been crisis as far as budget is concern. It has been a situation of motion without movement. There is need for the executive to bring the budget at least between July and August so that it can be discussed and the implementation starts on time. The present ruling party has no business in being there; it should pack its bag and leave governance."

He condemned the allocation of N10 billion to celebrate Nigeria’s independence anniversary. "It is outrageous and not in tandem with reality of the moment. We must get our priority right. We have teeming unemployed youth in the country," he stressed.

In his objection, Senator Izunoso (PDP, Imo) declared that; "We must know what we are doing with our budget to be able to move forward. Why are we spending so much money on recurrent expenditure? There is high rate of unemployment in the country and even those who are working are not well remunerated. What are we really celebrating? Why should we spend N10 billion on 50th anniversaries?

"There is need to have a proper law that will compel the executive to submit the budget on time to the legislature for prompt passage so that late implementation will be a thing of the past".

Senator Julius Ucha also opposed the allocation of N10billion for the anniversary celebration saying; "The quantum of money we have in the country is much more than what we need to give adequate employment to our youth. We have a responsibility as a legislature to make sure we address this critical issue of unemployment. We should device a means of compelling the executive at various levels to take the issue of provision of employment in the country serious."

He disagreed with the allocation of N10 billion for the celebration of 50th independent anniversary.

Similarly but in a mild tone, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange also said "What is the National Assembly doing to check the executive laxity in submitting the budget late, rather than bemoaning the situation every time we should do something about it? If we want the N10 billion to be reduced it is okay but outright removal of the budget is wrong."

Contributing to the budget amendment Senator Anthony Manzo (PDP, Taraba) said; "I support the Bill to amend the 2010 budget, but cautioned the legislature to look at the entire budget. The executive has really not done a proper job. Cutting the budget by 40% at the same time FG is spending N10 billion to celebrate independent anniversary is unrealistic. The money should be cut. Our power sector is not working."

Nonetheless, despite the dissent, the budget the supplementary scaled through.

Senate Majority Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin who led debate said the amendment bill seeks to among other things, implement the following; a revision of the 2010 Fiscal Framework to adjust the oil benchmark price on which the 2010 budget is predicated; and an amendment to the budget to revise downwards the level of aggregate expenditure.

According to him the amendments "become inevitable because of the challenges posed by the serious shortfall in projected revenue and the adverse implications this poses for financing the level of aggregate expenditure appropriated by the National Assembly.

"It is a fact that recently revenue developments indicate significant shortfalls in both oil and non-oil revenue which may persist till the end of the fiscal year. This will definitely have adverse implications in financing the 2010 budget.

"It is also necessary that, given the recent drop in international oil prices from over US$80 per barrel to under US$70 per barrel, it will be wise to revise the oil benchmark price to a more realistic level.

"In the face of all these challenges, it is necessary to revise downwards the aggregate level of expenditure from the N4.6086 billion approved in the 2010 appropriation Act and equally adjust the budget details accordingly", he said.

On the supplementary budget, Senator Folarin said it seeks to authorize the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N639, 824,478,183 only of which N507, 125,967,248 only is for additional recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure, while the balance of N132.698 billion only is for contribution to the development fund for additional capital expenditure for the year ending, December 31.

The bill he said becomes necessary due to the desire of the Federal Government to provide funds to accommodate certain critical items, such as statutory transfers, debt service, the service-wide vote and other critical expenditure heads that were either inadvertently omitted or under-provisioned for in the 2010 Appropriation Act.

"It is also designed to cater for certain unanticipated items of expenditure such as; the negotiated civil service wage increase; Power holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) arrears of monetization; and the 50th Independence Anniversary Celebrations of our great country. It was craftily packaged to build on the gains of the 2010 budget", he said.

Senator Abubakar Sondangi (PDP, Nasarawa) while contributing to the debate said; "The reality of our time as far as monetary and political issues is concern, I recommend the passage of the amendment. Let Nigerians see the dividend of democracy, not only talking on the pages of newspapers.

In his contribution, Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP, Enugu) said; "Passing the budget and amendment should not be seen as a ritual thing, something has to be done in budget forecasting and revenue allocation. Any economy that depends on single resources will always face this type of problem. When oil fortune goes up the budget is okay, when it falls the budget has problem. This is time for clarion call to take the issue of economic diversification serious."