As Senators express doubts on meeting up with targeted N8.155trillion, Kick against Increase in VAT
Task FG on revenue generation
Adjourn Debate till Tuesday
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – THE Senate on Thursday continued debate on the general principles of the 2020 Appropriation Bill Presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, with more knocks on the budget by some Senators.
Some of the Senators who spoke yesterday condemned the proposed increase of Value Added Tax, VAT from 5 percent to 7.5 percent, describing the move as anti- people and designed to cause more problems for the people.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday adjourned debates on the 2020 Appropriation Bill until Tuesday, October 15.
The Senate Majority Leader, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kebbi North had moved that plenary be adjourned until another legislative day; while the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Abia South seconded it.
Earlier, during Plenary, the senators had considered a Bill for an Act to authorise issuance of N10,330,416,607,347 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
The motion to commence consideration of the budget was moved by the Senate Leader after the Minority Leader had seconded a motion for the resumption of debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill.
In their contributions, the Senators have called on the executive arm of government to come up with what they described as aggressive revenue drive in meeting up with the N8.155trillion projected as expected revenues for financing of the N10.33trillion total expenditure profile of the 2020 budget proposals.
The Senators have also said that this has become imperative to avoid poor performance that characterised the N8.9trillion 2019 budget implementation admitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to be just 58% due to shortfalls in projected revenues.
Some Senators have also hailed President Buhari for adhering strictly to the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by ensuring the timely submission of the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
According to them, early submission of the appropriation bill will facilitate its quick passage by the National Assembly, as well as return the country’s budget cycle to the January-December timeline as provided by Constitution.
Meanwhile, while most of the 26 Senators who contributed to debate on general principles of the 2020 budget called for aggressive revenue drive, some of them in their submissions, kicked against the VAT increase.
We are discussing the 2020 budget estimates, is it fair to say we have a 2019 budget which has not been implemented?, Deputy Minority Leader, Bwacha
The first to speak yesterday was the Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba South who hailed the increase made on the Value Added Tax ( VAT) from 5 to 7.5%, however stressed that much may still be needed to be done to get the required revenues for the implementation of the 2020 budget.
Bwacha who described presentation of budgets as annual ritual, however took a swipe at the implementation of the 2019 Budget, saying that nothing has been achieved in that, yet the 2020 Budget was being discussed and to be passed.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha said, “The President presents budget every year but we do not take disciplinary measures expected to make the budget effective simply because we like to speak from both sides of our mouths. It has become an annual ritual and we we still do it.
“The President by tradition, would lay the budget and whatever comes out of it is nobody’s business. I’m saying this because since 1999, Budget implementation has not reached 70 per cent. This is very worrisome. We are discussing the 2020 budget estimates, is it fair to say we have a 2019 budget which has not been implemented?
“As we speak now, nothing has been done. We have the 2019 Appropriation Act and we are discussing the 2020 budget proposal. We refused to address this aspect of our shortcomings. No nation moves forward without discussing what happend in the past.
“Some of the projects being implemented now are not even in the 2019 budget. As parliament, we do not care to follow up by asking questions for obvious reasons. We need to diversify our economy because we are operating a mono economy. However, the budget estimates before us did not reflect this posture.
“The allocation to the Agriculture sector does not really portray a nation that is prepared to diversify. We are only prospered to speak from both sides of our mouths. We need to walk the talk if we really want to achieve a significant growth in our economy.
“This is a worrisome development in our budget system. We do not take budgeting as a serious business. It may be difficult to achieve 100 per cent implementation but we could achieve a significant improvement in our budget implementation. Oversight functions has also become a ritual. We have to take it seriously as a parliament.”
All the Loopholes on Poor Revenue Generation must be blocked if 2020 Budget must succeed, Urhoghide
In his Contribution, Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South warned that if the 2020 Budget must succeed, all the Loopholes that are associated with revenue generation must be blocked, adding that poor revenue generation which has been the bane of effective implementation of yearly budgetary proposals.
Senator Urhoghide said, ” We must put our mouth where our money is , meaning that , as parliamentarians, more thorough oversight functions must be carried out on all revenue generating agencies.”
Speaking further, Senator Urhoghide who hailed President Buhari over his determination to reverse the poor annual budgetary practice that characterised late submission of the appropriation bill to the National Assembly, said: “What President Buhari did this year, is a complete deviation from what we have been seeing in terms of procedure in the presentation of our annual budget estimates to the National Assembly.
“For the first time, the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) were strictly adhered to. Last year, we had the budget presented to the National Assembly before the MTEF/FSP came.
“We know the Act states very clearly that MTEF/FSP must come first, and the National Assembly must pass it, before the budget estimates come.
“This is the first time we are adhering strictly to this procedure. It is commendable on the path of President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly.”
Urhoghide, who called on the Federal Government to ensure that capital expenditure in the 2020 Budget benefits Nigerians, said, “the provisions of the FRA as regards the budgetary execution and meeting of targets must be adhered to.
“It is the responsibility of the Finance Minister to meet with the joint Committee of Finance of the Senate and House of Representatives, so that there is a quarterly briefing of releases and distribution of funds. This is lacking, that is why there are mistakes in the execution of the budget.”
Committees on Appropriation and Finance of the National Assembly have a task to balance the submission, Akpan
In his contribution, Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum ( Upstream), Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, PDP, Akwa-Ibom North East also hailed the President for throwing his weight behind the amendment of the Deep Offshore Inland Revenue Act, said that Nigeria stands to benefit “an additional N400 billion for this year” with an amendment to the Act.
Senator Akpan who noted that the Committees on Appropriation and Finance of the National Assembly have a task to balance the submission of the President, said, “What we do as a National Assembly must reflect equitable distribution of available resources to the good of all Nigerians.”
Budget of Growth and Job Creation is Apt, Ordia
On his part, Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Clifford Ordia, PDP, Edo Central), said “this budget of growth and job creation is apt at this point in time in the history of our national development because when fully implemented, it will go a long way in removing our youths from the streets.
“The infrastructural development of this country needs to be handled holistically with timelines. This is the only way we can be able to attract investors to this country.”
Ordia who hailed President Buhari for providing N296 billion sinking fund for payment of local contractors, however urged the Federal Government to ensure that those owed over a period of time are duly paid.
Speaking on the manufacturing sector, Ordia said “It is supposed to be one of the major sectors contributing to our GDP. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
“Presently, the manufacturing sector and in fact the private sector only contribute about nine percent to our GDP. This will not create the right environment that would create jobs for our young school leavers.”
People are looking at allocation to key sectors and the revenue to fund the projects, Basiru
In his contribution, Senator Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central said, “The 2019 budget was not being fully implemented because it was passed and signed into law towards the end of the 8th National Assembly. What struck me looking at the budget is that the revenue projections and infrastructure show a 70 per cent deficit in the 2019 budget and in the 2020, it has already been highlighted that N2.18tn will be the proposed deficit. People are looking at allocation to key sectors and the revenue to fund the projects.
“For instance, when you talk of the N256bn being allocated to Works, I have it on good authority that what is even required to take care of the outstanding in the Ministry of Works and Housing is in the excess of N500bn. Yet many people are hailing the N256bn allocated for Works, describing it as huge. We should also be looking at the aspect of progressive taxation.”
All Revenue Generating Agencies must be monitored, Akinyelure
On his part, Senator Ayo Akinyelure ( PDP Ondo Central ) in his submission , said ” All agencies of government saddled with revenue generation should be thoroughly monitored and quarterly assessed on whether they are meeting revenue target set for them or not .”
The Budget size should be reduced, Yaro
In his contribution, Senator Dauda Yaro, PDP Adamawa South suggested that the entire budget size should be reduced to N8.155 trillion since the possibility of not meeting up to N8.155trillion targeted total revenue of the budget may not be feasible.
He said that projecting N8.155trillion as total targeted revenue and N10.33trillion as proposed total aggregate expenditure, indicate that spending beyond ones earnings was increasing deficit component of the budget on yearly basis .
Other Senators like Istifanus Gyang ( PDP Plateau North), Kola Balogun ( PDP Oyo South), Ibikunle Amosun( APC Ogun Central) etc, also called for serious revenue drive in financing the budget .
Also in his ontribution, Senator Christopher Ekpenyong, PDP Akwa Ibom North West, specifically described it as anti people, just as Senator Onor Sandy Ojang, PDP Cross River Central ) , described the budget proposals as regressive taxation .
According to Ojang, increase in VAT is like a short cut to revenue earnings with attendant consequences of shrinking the economy and hightening the unemployment rate .
Senator Ojang said, “The issue of VAT cannot be overemphasised,” warning that “it is important to the wellbeing of our people.
“The consequences of the increase in VAT are dangerous, I believe one of the consequences of this increment will be unemployment. We need to expand our economy to build a future for our youths,” she submitted.
But Senators like Chukwuka Utazi ( PDP Enugu North) , Kabir Barkiya ( APC Katsina Central), Ibikunle Amosun ( APC Ogun Central ), Ibrahim Shekarau ( APC Kano Central), Abdul-Kwari Sulyman ( APC Kaduna North ) etc, submitted that the budget proposals are realistic and achievable .
Senator Chukwuka Utazi who lamented that there were so many abandoned projects in the South East, mentioning the second Niger Bridge as one of such projects, said, ” We want the Federal Government to allocate money for them to be completed.”