By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—AFTER three days of robust debate on the general principles of the 2017 Appropriations Bill submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate, yesterday, suspended plenary for three weeks, just as Senate President Bukola Saraki called on the various committees to ensure equitable distribution of projects among the various geographical areas represented by the Senators.
The Senate, yesterday, passed the fiscal estimates of the 2017 Appropriation Bill for second reading.
According to Saraki, equal distribution of capital projects would give every one, region or zone a sense of belonging, as well as help guide against previous experiences of complaints about lopsided allocations, adding that the budget must be tailored towards pulling the country out of the current recession, investing in the people and laying foundation for a diversified sustainable inclusive economic growth.
Saraki, who disclosed that the Senate would hold public hearings on the Appropriation Bill between February 7 and 8, where various stakeholders, businessmen, entrepreneurs, among other interest groups would come and make inputs to make the budget more people oriented, urged the standing committees to ensure a thorough review of the estimated revenues and expenditure for the year to produce a realistic and implementable budget for the nation.
“As I commit this Appropriation bill to the Appropriations committee and the sub committees, we should objectively review the planned expenditure and review the revenues in line with the main objectives of the budget we have discussed, which include pulling us out of economic recession, investing in our people, laying foundation for a diversified sustainable inclusive growth and pushing our agenda for a made in Nigeria products.
“In doing this, we must take note of some of the contributions by our colleagues, which I took time to take note, including the great concern to the fact that we passed a law on the issue of one percentage of consolidated revenue to go to the health sector and to date it has still not been implemented. Also it the fact that the budget for the health sector is still below the minimum agreed percentage.”
Most of the Senators who contributed to the debate, yesterday, lamented the poor implementation of the 2016 budget and urged that efforts should be made to achieve a change in the 2017 budget.