2014 budget scales second reading in senate

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The 2014 Appropriation Bill passed second reading at the Senate on Tuesday  as  Senators continue to ask for more funding for agriculture, judiciary, security and decried over bloating in non priority areas.

Okonjo-Iweala-budgetWhen the Senate resumed debate on the budget, several Senators, in their contribution, said that so many on-going projects had been neglected while areas that should have less appropriation had large sums.

Sen. Gbenga Kaka (APC-Ogun), in his contribution, said that it was appalling that the agriculture sector, which was capable of employing a teeming number of youths, had very little allocation.

“Agriculture is capable of providing 70 per cent employment and yet not enough has been appropriated to the sector.

“I do not have confidence in the appropriation bill and so it should be sent back so that it can be reworked.”

Kaka said the budget was unacceptable and something concrete must be done about it.

Sen. Helen Esuene (PDP- Akwa Ibom), however, said that the appropriation bill was a very good one and there was no need to send it back.

“I am happy that there has been a lot of improvement in electricity supply. This appropriation bill is a very good one and should not be sent back.”

Esuene said there was need for a Solid Mineral Development Commission which she said could be used to harness the mineral potentials of the country and put them to good use.

On the issue of security, she said that the police needed a lot of more money to enable them put in their best.

She said police stations were neglected and left to look unkempt which could be demoralising to the officers.

Sen. Joshua Lidani also joined his colleagues to call for an increase in the funding for the judiciary describing the amount appropriated as “meager”.

Also contributing, Sen. Olubunmi Adetumbi (APC-Ekiti) said the Senate should use the opportunity of the budget to assert its legislative powers.

Adetumbi said that the budget had been prepared in breach of several laws passed by the Senate.

“For instance, section 18(2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act  says that the provision for the budget must be in conformity with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), this has been violated.

“Section 33 requests that the Finance Ministry should provide monthly revenue estimates, this too has not been complied with.”

According to Adetumbi, the greatest risk is not on the expenditure side but the revenue gap because Nigeria continues to borrow to close revenue loss and this is largely due to oil theft.

He queried the non prioritisation of allocation, saying that the presidential fleet had more allocation than the entire Air Force.

He said that the Senate would have itself to blame if it did not redirect every wasteful appropriation in the budget to promote development.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, noted that several issues had been brought up in the course of the debate on the budget.

Ekweremadu appealed to the Senators to devote sufficient time in handling the budget at the committee level.

“The respective chairmen and members of the committees need to liaise with their counterparts in the House of Representatives.

“This is to see if you can harmonise your positions sufficiently enough before it gets to the appropriation committee.

“This has become necessary so that areas of conflict will be less.

So many issues came up in the course of the debate.They include the issues of waste, over bloating of funds in areas that should have less, and neglecting areas that should have more.”

Ekweremadu referred the bill to the Senate committees on Appropriation and Finance for further legislative scrutiny.

The committees are expected to submit their report within three weeks. (NAN)

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