By Inalegwu Shaubu
ABUJAâ€”THE Senate, yesterday, agreed to cut the N4.3 trillion 2010 Budget expenditure by N400 billion with the Amendment Bill passing a second reading.
The Appropriation Act originally empowered the Federal Government to spend N4.3 trillion, with N183.575 billion as statutory transfer and N542.38 for debt service. Also, N2.105 trillion was budgeted for recurrent expenditure, while N1.37 trillion was for capital project.
The N400 billion the Senate proposes to cut is, however, a far cry from President Jonathanâ€™s request in which he had asked for a 40 per cent reduction, which translates to about N1.2 trillion from the total budget.
The senators initially were opposed to the cut with most of them stressing that priority areas should be exempted.
But the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the debate on the amendment, explained that the proposed cuts did not include critical areas like power, Niger Delta Development Commission, agriculture, works, water, basic education and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Leading the debate on the bill, Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, said the amendment had become necessary due to short-fall in oil benchmark price, upon which the 2010 was hinged.
He said the challenges posed by the serious shortfall in projected revenue would pose serious problems to the economy if the budget was not revised.
Folarin said: â€œIt 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.â€
He said it was necessary that, given the recent drop in international oil prices from over $80 per barrel to under $70 per barrel, it would be wise to revise the oil benchmark price to a more realistic level.
Senator Ahmed Lawan, ANPP, Yobe North, while commenting on the budget questioned the cutting of the budget by 40 per cent across board.
He said: â€œThe economy is in trouble and will continue to be in trouble as long as Nigerian economy remains monolithic. Cutting 40 percent across board means we do not have priorities. We have INEC, they just came on board, we have power problems, these sectors need special provisions. We need to look at the cuts because certain things should go beyond these massive cuts.
Senator John Shagaya, in his contribution said the cut is an indictment of the Federal Governmentâ€™s lack of commitment to budget implementation.
He said: â€œThis is an indictment of the executive. We have been relying on one source of revenue for too long and this is not good enough. I feel very sad that things are going this way and it has become an annual ritual.â€
Senator Ibrahim Idah, while opposing the cuts said: â€œCutting the budget across board shows that there is no objectivity. Our budget has been guided more by tradition, rather than the realities on the ground. The budget should be prioritized.â€
Following conclusion of debate on the bill it was, however, read for the second time and referred to the Senate Committees on Finance and Appropriation by Senator Ekweremadu and to be returned next week.