By HENRY UMORU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA — FOLLOWING series of nocturnal meetings between members of the National Assembly and the Executive, the Senate yesterday passed the amendment Bill of the 2013 Appropriation Act.
The Bill which scaled the second reading, was referred to the Senator Ahmed Maccido-led Committee on Appropriation for further deliberation and report to the Senate today, just as clause by clause consideration of the Bill would be done by the lawmakers today.
The sudden passage of the Amendment Bill which had come under serious attack since March, came on the heels of fears raised early this month by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who had said the budget will not be touched until the Senators resume from its two month recess in September.
Abaribe who had said what they got from President Goodluck Jonathan which was actually the third Amendment was a sort of document amending the budget, stressed that the lawmakers discovered that the present documents sent were even larger than the budget itself, adding that, “there is no way that the Senate and even the National Assembly can consider these amendments until we come back from our vacation this year.
“There is absolutely no way amendments of these nature would be considered for the short time that we have until we go on our national vacation.”
In his lead debate, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central said: “After consultations with the leadership of the National Assembly, the President sent in another version of amendments superseding the earlier one.
“The bill seeks to authorize the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N4,987,220,425,601.
The breakdown of the budget is as follows: Statutory transfers-N388,063,000,000; Debt Service-N591,764,000,000; Recurrent (Non-debt) expenditure-N2,418,814,620,783; Contribution to the Development Fund fort Capital Expenditure for the year ending on the December 31, 2013-N1,588,578,805,197.
“The highlights of this categorised 2013 budget amendment cut across the expenditure categories which are designated as critical and important as follows:
“Some capital projects, the allocation of which were reduced in the previous amendment are now restored in this amendment to promote national development among others.
“Ministry of Works:Abuja-Lokoja Road reduced by N4 billion; Kano-Maiduguri Road reduced by N3.5 billion; dualisation of Ibadan-Ilorin Section 2 reduced by N5.5 billion; rehabilitation of Jebba Bridge reduced by N1.25 billion; rehabilitation of burnt Marine Bridge and Iddo Bridge reduced by N1 billion; Special Intervention Fund for Emergency Roads and Bridges washout across the country reduced by N6.28 billion; dualisation of Obajana Junction to Benin reduced by N4 billion etc.
Ministry of Health:MDG HIV/AIDS ARV drugs allocation reduced by N1B, routine immunization vaccines reduced by N1.75B;malaria programme and procurement and distribution of insecticides reduced by N.12B, National Trauma Centre,Abuja reduced by N0.1B, etc.
Ministry of Power: A total of N16.3 billion was cut from power projects including the 215 MW Kaduna Dual Fired Power Plant, which was reduced by N2.25 billion; 2nd Kaduna-Kano 33KV DC Lines reduced by N1.5 billion; Gombe-Yola Jalingo 330KV DC Lines reduced by N0.6 billion; Maiduguri 330/13KV Sub-station reduced by N0.3 billion; Kaduna-Jos 330 KV DC Line reduced by N0.5 bilion; Omotosho-Epe –Ajah 330 KV DC Lines reduced by N0.8 billion; etc.
Ministry of Transport: Construction of Abuja-Kaduna Rail was reduced by N1.4 billion; Jebba-Kano Rail line rehabilitation reduced by N0.5 billion, procurement and rehabilitation of Wagons/Locomotives reduced by N0.3 billion etc.
“Ministry of Education: Allocations to various projects were reduced to the tune of N5.64 billion; including the National Library Project which was cut by N2 billion.
SURE-P: Considering the fact that unemployment is one of our major concerns in this country today, and considering the gravity of the situation, there is the need for budgetary allocation to the Community Services, Women and Youth Empowerment Programme under the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, the proposal of N27 billion initially proposed in the 2013 appropriation as presented by the president, to me, will suffice in this regard as against the N9 billion approved by us. ‘’This cut will have the adverse effect of severely undermining our capacity to create the jobs needed for our teeming unemployed youths, women and physically challenged citizens. In this regard, I crave your cooperation to restore the SURE-P budget.
You will further recall that the personnel cost was cut across all MDAs which will make it difficult to meet government’s obligations to its workers, there is therefore the need to urgently restore the cuts in order to maintain industrial harmony
“With this, Mr President, my distinguished colleagues, I seek your support for the second reading of this bill.”
Speaking on the Bill, Senate President David Mark agreed of the need to pass it as it was important to restore the personnel cost because removing it would deny workers of their entitlements, adding, “we are back to square one.”
He however advised his colleagues to intensify oversight functions with a view to guaranteeing implementation of the budget.