BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
ABUJA—SENATE Leader, Chief Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, has stated that the budgetary allocation for capital budget in the country would continue to be low, despite efforts of government, because of the size of the workforce and the increase in the number of states.
Senator Ndoma-Egba, who disclosed this in an interview in Abuja, also alleged that with the recent agitations by some groups and ethnic nationalities for the creation of more states, it would reach a point where the budgetary provision for capital project would enter zero level.
He said despite the fact that the budget proposal prepared by the executive was always being sent to the National Assembly for approval, there was nothing the federal lawmakers could do as attempt to tamper with it could affect workers.
Explaining why the nation’s budget in recent times had remained below 30 per cent and the senate had not challenged the executive about it, Senator Ndoma-Egba, who represents Cross River Central senatorial district on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said: “I think we should go to the roots of the matter.
Recently, it was asked by your colleagues what I was expecting from the 2014 budget and I said nothing, nothing dramatic. “Let’s go through it together. The 2014 budget has a recurrent component that is 76 per cent and capital component that is 24 per cent, what can you achieve with 24 per cent?”
“You just cannot change because you have workers whose salaries you must pay. Now let’s do a simple exercise, you people are journalists go back to the days of three regions, check what the capital components of what the federal and regional budgets were and what the recurrent components were.
“Go back to the days when we had four regions, do the same exercise, come down when we had 12 states, do the same exercise, come down when we had 19 states, do the same exercise, come down when we had 21 states, do the same exercise, as our federating units increase, the recurrent components of the budget increases and the capital component decreases.
“So it is a structural thing that the national assembly here cannot do it with a stroke of the pen, Nigerians must be honest with themselves and look at this matter critically and address it.
“Now people tell me that as at 1960, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Nigeria were at par economically, now are we at par today, the obvious answer is no, why are we not at par, could it be military rule? Brazil had military rule, Indonesia had military rule, Malaysia had military rule, it is only India and I think Singapore that didn’t have military rule.
“So, if all these countries and Nigeria experienced military rule and they still managed to reach where they have reached, it certainly cannot be as a result of military rule. What is it Nigeria has done that these other countries have not done?
“There federating units have remained the same. Ours moved from three to four to twelve to nineteen to 21 to 36 all in my life time and I am not 60 yet.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba noted that with the recent agitation for the creation of more states, “We will get to the point where the recurrent budget will be a hundred percent and the capital zero, just do the analysis yourselves.”
Commenting on why the president had not signed some of the bills passed by the national assembly, the senate leader said it was left to the Nigerian people to persuade the president to sign into law the passed bills.
“I haven’t been president before, but if I were president, I think when a bill comes from the national assembly, what I will do is to get my own legal people to look at it, so I don’t know what advise he has been given, why those bills haven’t been assented to.
“But constitutionally, there is a mechanism to deal with those bills, after a certain number of days, 30 days, if the consent is not given, it is taken that, he (the president) has withheld his consent, we will now re-introduce the bill and pass it by two-third majority and we override the president’s consent.
“But again, we have this constraint of time. Right now we have 187 bills by the time you bring back those bills, you will be increasing the tally of the bills that you passed.”
While reminded that there was no assurance that the president would sign the passed 12 bills out of the 187, he said, “It is not automatic that the moment we said we have passed 12 they are ready for assent, they have to be passed by the House of Reps, then we go for harmonization, it is after harmonization that it is now formally transmitted to Mr. President for his assent.”