By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—Returning to plenary after a two-week break during which it reviewed the 2017 budget of the Federal Government against the proposals for 2018, the Senate yesterday returned a damning verdict of incompetence, inconsistency and ineptitude in the planning and execution of the 2017 budget.
Summing up the misgivings of the senators who spoke across party lines, Senate President Bukola Saraki expressed anger, saying that the executive arm must sit up and warning that disaster was lurking if the 2017 budget was not rolled over to 2018.
The senate also observed that the 2018 budget is “heavily padded, inconsistent, full of errors and inacurracies.”
“Truly, it is very disheartening and disappointing because we know how much we have put into the budget process,” he said.
Senator Saraki noted the submissions of senators over their discoveries of poor budget implementation in 2017 and inconsistencies in the claims by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government during the budget defence sessions.
“By now, 2017 budget should have been implemented by up to between 40 and 60 per cent, but this has not been the case. This makes it very difficult for us, we cannot turn into magicians. I continue to appeal that you work within what you have and let us do our best to ensure that we have a budget that is in the interest of Nigerians.
“The executive on their part should sit up and not just make rhetoric, but get down to work. If 2017 budget items are not rolled over to 2018 that is a disaster. Let the executive show some seriousness towards the budget exercise.”
The outflow of outrage followed a point of order raised by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South, who queried the submissions made by the MDAs during the budget defence sessions.
According to Na’Allah, the pronouncements made by the President and his aides on the execution of the budget was not reflective in the submissions being made by heads of the MDAs.
“When we suspended plenary, it was with the idea that the committees will swing into action so we can have a tentative date to pass the budget. From what I have seen, we might run into troubled waters. If we have not appreciated what the problems are, it is important for Nigerians to come here and understand what the problem is.
“The template we are using will continue to create problems for us. It was created during the Military era. The template cannot work in our country today. From reports we have had, it is obvious that we have problems. We need to know what the problems are. If we have a 2017 budget that has not been executed today and we are considering the 2018 budget, it means there is a problem.
Contributing, to the motion, Senator Barnabas Gemade, APC, Benue North East suggested that the consideration of the 2018 budget be suspended and that the lifespan of the current 2017 budget be extended till end of March of 2018.
“What we have seen is far from the 40 per cent capital project implementation we were told. In many MDAs, budget performance is hovering between 12 to 15 percent. In early November, the borrowing plans were brought, and we approved it. They said they were going to release more funds. As of now, we cannot say if that is true.
Also contributing, Senator Solomon Adeola, APC, Lagos West who was quite vehement in his presentation wondered why the Senate should consider and approve the 2018 budget, when the performance of the 2017 budget is unknown, adding that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun be summoned, to brief the Senate on the low performance of the budget and why her Ministry did not release budget funds.
On his party, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South urged his colleagues to put the 2018 proposals at bay, pending when the 2017 budget will attain a certain level of performance.
“I want to say that the budget of 2018 is already bedevilled. For us to be able to determine the 2018, we need to see the performance of 2017. Many MDAs are complaining that what they are getting for recurrent expenditure is not even for them. More worrisome is the capital expenditure.
On his part, Senator Mohammed Hassan, PDP, Yobe South suggested that a small technical committee be set up by the Senate to come up with a standard format on how to handle the 2018 budget, adding, “Many of us have been made to do the work of the executive. We need to set up a small technical committee to come up with a standard format on how to handle the 2018 budget. It is very important to do that.”
Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West said the 2018 budget proposal was “garnished with deception.”
“Enough is enough. We must ensure that the 2017 budget is properly implemented. We must ensure that the budget is an elitist. What they have brought to us is a just a proposal. We need to give Nigerians a budget that will benefit Nigerians.”
Upon the submissions the President of the Senate, Senator Saraki summed up the contributions with an admonishment that the executive should get its acts together.
Having listened to the Senators, Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided, did not subject the points raised and suggestions made to any voice vote, just as a position was not taken at the end of the day.
Saraki who maintained that if the executive fails to act, by rolling over the 2017 budget, it will be a disaster as the Senators are not magicians, adding, “Truly, it is very disheartening and disappointing because we know how much we have put into the budget process. How can anybody who is responsible travel at this period when the budget defence is ongoing?
“ By now 2017 budget should have been implemented either 40 or 60 percent, but this has not been the case. This makes it very difficult for us, we cannot turn into magicians. I continue to appeal that you work within what you have and let us do our best to ensure that we have a budget that is in the interest of Nigerians.
“The executive on their part should sit up and not just rhetorics, but really get down to work. If 2017 budget items are not rolled over to 2018 that is a disaster. It means that most of them are misrepresenting the actual grounds to the leadership of the executive. If the documents are not showing that then that is a carious serious problem. Let the executive show some seriousness towards the budget exercise.”