…Says Senators to begin discussions on General Principles of 2021 Budget Tuesday Next week
…As Senators Speak on Buhari’s Presentation of 2021 Appropriation Bill
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate said Thursday that it has not any way suspended work on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB that was transmitted to it for consideration and subsequent passage by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate said that it will on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, debate the PIB as it enters second reading.
Disclosing this yesterday in Abuja before the adjournment of plenary after the presentation of the 2021 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly at a Joint session by President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan said that early debate on the bill is expected to avert any delay in consideration, resulting from the upper chamber’s decision to suspend plenary for one month to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government defend their respective budgets for the year 2021.
According to Lawan, the critical piece of legislation, after the debate on the floor by lawmakers, would then pass for second reading and be referred to the Joint Committees on Petroleum; and Gas for further legislative work.
The President of the Senate said, “For the PIB, we need to get the document to our Joint Committee before we suspend plenary, otherwise, the document will remain unattended to throughout the time that we would be handling the budget; and that means we can only come back to it around November or December, and that would be late.
“Everybody is waiting for the PIB to be attended to, but we will take sufficient time to work on it because it is a very sensitive document.
“Nevertheless, we should take the debate and Second Reading of the PIB by the upper week, Tuesday 20th, 2020, and refer the document to our Joint Committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream); and Gas.
“So, while we are working on the budget, they can keep work on the PIB warm. We are not going to rush on it since we have the budget before us.
“Our Joint Committee must do everything possible for us to have a document or report that we would work with in the Senate and something that Nigerians and investors will be happy with.”
Also addressing Journalists yesterday, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, All Progressives Congress, APC, Osun Central said, “Reuters sent a request that PiB Senate said it is suspending work on the bill till next year because of the budget, this is not true,
“The Senate is committed to also expeditious passage of the bill because it is central even to the realisation of revenue and putting our oil in competitive international market.
“On the 20th of Oct the bill will enter second reading after which it will be sent to the relevant committee of the Senate, that is committee on upstream downstream sector so that work is being done on the 2021 appropriation, work will be done at the same time on the bill.”
Recall that the PIB scaled first reading in the Senate last week, an indication that the Senate has begun work on the Bill.
Also recall that the leadership of the National Assembly, had penultimate week, pledged to accelerate legislative action on the Petroleum Industry Bill submitted by the President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago.
The leadership of the National Assembly had also said that the ninth Assembly will break the jinx of not being able to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill after several attempts.
The National Assembly had however, vowed to ensure thoroughness in its consideration, which according to the principal officers, would be treated simultaneously with the 2021 national budget.
The President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, stated this during a National Assembly joint leadership meeting on the PIB, with the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timpre Sylva.
The two Presiding officers had assured Nigerians that the time had come for the passage of the bill.
Speaking further, Senator Basiru who disclosed that work will start on the 2021 Appropriation Bill that was presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari next week, with copies of the budget made available to the Senators, said, “we will make sure that copies of the presented budget are made available to senators latest by Monday so on Tuesday 23, the senators with take turns to discuss the principle of the budget and make their views and comments known publicly before it is sent to the relevant committee under the coordination of appropriation.”
Meanwhile, Senator Smart Adeyemi, APC, Kogi West has hailed President Buhari’s move to complete on-going projects as contained the 2021 Budget speech.
Adeyemi who was reacting to the presentation of the 2021 budget estimates by Buhari to the joint session of National Assembly, said that the President’s focus to complete all on-going projects was fantastic.
The Senator who noted that Buhari’s decision not to initiate new projects, until ongoing projects were completed was uncommon attributes not associated with a an average Nigerian politician, said, “A topical Nigerian politician will not be thinking of completing ongoing projects, they will be thinking of new projects.
” If these projects are completed and we network the north,south,west and east of the country, there will be boom on economic activities.
” Because the economists are telling us that next year may not be too friendly economically and it is a global problem.
“We may not feel the pain as much, because the policies that are required as a cushion for a global economy recession is already put on black and white for people to know that the government was conscious of it.
“The prayer is that let them implement all that they have said and in terms of the policies, doin’t look at the money, don’t look at the figure, look at the policy put in place to garvanise the economic activities of the country.
“Once you have good road network in the country, rail system, and other infrastructural,these are key to economic boom.”
On his part, Senator Obinna Ogba, PDP Ebonyi said that he was happy President Muhammadu Buhari directed that all Ministers and heads of Ministries Departmemts and Agencies (MDAs) must appear to defend their budgets before National Assembly.
Ogba who noted that this would help eradicate the reasons why budgets are delayed for passage, said that the executive should provide solution about the challenge of revenue generation in the country.
He said, “Not that the country does not have revenue, but these revenue go down the drain, what they account for the country is not what is actually generated .
“Effort should be made to transfer all money generated, directly to Federation Account and when that is done, you will discover that the issue of revenue will not be a problem in the country. ”
The Senator who noted that he was surprised that the N100 billion earmark as zonal intervention fund had remain the same over the years, said, “I am surprised that the 100 billion earmarked for zonal interventions projects for the 2021 budget estimates is not increased.
“It has always been like that, I am surprised that it is not increased, that interventions fund need to be increased.
“Because what comes to my constituency is N200 million and when you come to my constituency you will see the projects, we did with the money.
“In my community, where I come from,you cannot see Federal Government projects apart from the constituency projects.”
On his part, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, APC, Taraba said, “It is a usual routine, but every year we do this but like Mr president has emphasized that this time, is a very challenging budget, very challenging budget for that matter, you know we have a high amount of deficit and then our revenue is not commiserate with our expectation, we have the covid-19 challenge and so many other challenges this time that we have to contend with.
“But I am pleased that we are all determined by the MDAs, by the national Assembly itself that we are going to work round the clock to make sure we give Nigeria the budget that can be sustained, that can provide better value for the Nigerian people.”
On Borrowing, Senator Yusuf said, “As an economist, borrowing is not the issue, it is the use of the money that you borrowed for. If we are going to use the money just to consume, then it will be very very challenging, but if we are going yo use the money for the purpose of generating more revenue that means to provide for projects that are going to generate more revenue, then I think you know, it is worth borrowing, but do we have option at this point in time, we don’t seem to have the option.
“That is why with the kind of deficit that we have, with the kind of income, there is need to do borrowing so that we can survive and then work so hard to ensure that what we borrow we meet the terms of the borrowing.”