…pass appropriation bill to second reading; adjourn plenary to November 9 for defence with MDAs

…bar erring ones from participation

…propose to pass budget December 15, 2021

…N410.15 to $1 exchange “ll impoverish Nigerians-Hon. Raji 

By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja

House of Representatives has said that no funds will be moved from the recurrent component of the 2022 budget to the capital expenditure and vice versa unless where it becomes extremely necessary with some plausible justifications.

This came as the House incidentally committed the N16.39 trillion fiscal document to second reading, adjourned plenary to November 9 and subsequently resolved to commence budget defence with the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs of government on Monday next week.

READ ALSOReps want oil benchmark at US$60 per barrel

The House also stated that it will bar erring MDAs and allocate zero funds to them for either failing to implement the previous budget despite 70 percent releases or carrying out the resolutions of the House.

Barring their minds at the continued debate on the general principle of the 2022 budget at Thursday plenary, more lawmakers demanded an upward review of the crude oil price benchmark of $57 dollars just as another lawmaker, Hon. Olawale Raji said that placing the official exchange rate of 1$ to N410. 15 will further bring Nigerians to abject penury.

The warning to the Committees not to make financial transfers from recurrent expenditure to capital projects emanated from the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Hon. Mukhtar Betara (APC) Borno State at a meeting with members of the Committee to herald the budget defence. 

He also charged the members to be on their toes over constituency projects.

He added that the budget is billed to be laid on December 14 and subsequently passed into law the following day. 

He said: “Budget defence will start by Monday next week. We have been given the timetable to work for two weeks. The Committees will work for two week and after two weeks, the budget will be brought back here.

“The issue of recurrent, specifically, we will be more careful on recurrent. No money should be taken from the recurrent to the capital or from the capital to the recurrent except where it becomes necessary for the Committee to come in here to defend their budget and they justify why they needed increase for recurrent. We will as a Committee and look at it and if there is any other way, we find money and give them.

“Work with the Committees and subcommittees. If you working with them, you have to guide them. The percentages will be given to you by the Clerk. It will be typed and be given to heads of the subcommittees and members but please, we have to be very serious with the guidelines because in the last budget, we really had some issues that we had to sit and do some reconciliations. 

“And again, when it comes to budget especially for our legislators where members or distingushed senators will decide their projects, we have to look at the agencies within that mandate. We have a lot of corrigendums this year. Assuming now you have projects for classroom and you are taking a classroom to the federal ministry of agriculture, it is not done.  You have solar street light, you take it to UBEC, they will reject it. It is not their mandate. 

“This is an election year. If you domicile your project with an agency and they reject them, before we start the new processing, you lose the project. 

“So, as subcommittees and you are working with Committees, you will sit with them, give them the guidelines that if they move out of the agencies and it is not their mandate, as Committee on appropriations, you will take the projects where they are supposed to be.

“In our timetable, we are proposing to lay the budget on 14 of December, consider on 15”.

Speaking at the plenary earlier on the general principle of the budget, Hon. Olawale Raji (APC) representing Epe Federal Constituency of Lagos State said that the proposed exchange rate of 410.15 will impoverish more Nigerians.

He also tasked the government on infrastructure development.

“I commend the Federal Government for the giant stride recorded in infrastructural development particularly in Rail transportation sector. The completion of the Lagos-lbadan, Abuja-Kaduna and the ltakpe-Ajaokuta railines is highly commendable. 

Mr. President promised in his budget speech that the Calabar-Lagos coastal 

line which is expected to connect the Southern and Eastern States of the country will soon commence. I urge Mr. President to prioritize this project and ensure completion possibly before the end of the tenure of this administration. 

Mr. President also spoke about progress being made on several power generation, transmission and distribution projects. While this is commendable, I urge the Committee on Power to work with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to ensure speedy completion of the Omptosho-Epe-Ahah power project which commenced in 2012 and has remained uncompleted nine (9) years after the award of the contract. 

“Mr. Speaker, the 2022 budget is on an exchange rate of N410.15 per US Dollar ($). This is a clear official devaluation of the Naira (N). This is bound to further impoverish Nigerians. Nigeria is an import dependent economy and devaluation of our currency over the years has not benefitted our people in any way. It has led to high rate of inflation, drastic reduction in the purchasing power of the citizens, increased cost of doing business, corruption and brain drain particularly among our highly skilled professionals. Rather than this continued devaluation of our currency, I recommend that efforts should be geared towards strengthening of the Naira”, he said.

In his contribution to the debate, Hon. Ben Roland Igbakpa (PDP) representing Ethiope federal constituency of Delta State said that oil benchmark should be raised.

“There’s need for us not to allow the excess crude account to grow once again. This is one account that never comes to parliament and that account is always there to take funds, they don’t use it to pay our debt. So I support my colleagues that said we should jack up the oil benchmark to $65 per barrel. 

“We have issues with the youths, which makes up about 80 million Nigerians and we have a ministry called ministry of science and technology and another one called ministry of communication and digital economy, we have not seen any impact from these two ministries since their existence. 

“We have raw talents all over the country, you see young men developing cars, drones and none of them are being harnessed by these ministries. For digital economy all I know is the fact that they want to collect my data, same data which are being collected by the banks. I recommend that both Ministries should be brought together and merged into one so that we can reduce the cost of governance. Because this recurrent expenditure we are talking about are because of all these Ministries that are doing almost the same thing”, he said. 

Similarly, Hon. Ben Mzondu (PDP) representing Makurdi/Guma federal constituency of Benue State said that the budget should address issue of unemployment.

“We must make deliberate efforts to see that this budget address the issue of unemployment in the country. As we speak today a lot of interventions that we budget for handled by CBN, Nirsal loans and other interventions has not been able address the issue of unemployment”, he said. 

On his part, House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia)

 lamented poor allocation to National Assembly and asked for increase in oil benchmark increased to $65.

Briefing Journalists after the plenary, he said that erring MDAs will be punished for not implementing the previous budget to satisfaction. 

“It is one thing to move the budget early enough. It is another thing to return the budget to the January to December calender. It is another thing to sabotage the government by saying you have not received 100 percent and so there would be no implementation. There is nowhere that the appropriation committee stated that you must receive 100 percent funding before you start implementing the budget. 

“We actually frown at the agencies or the ministries who say they have only received 75 percent or 60 percent and are waiting for more to come before implementation. Why don’t you start with that 50 percent that you have received. When the other ones come, you mobilize, especially on capital projects. To wait till the dying minutes and then start giving somebody 100 percent for him to be able to perform on that before coming for presentation is a very wrong strategy and this is one thing that we want the MDAs to change and that is what we are going to be looking out for in the budget implementation defense when they appear before us.

“Yes most of them would be sent back. MDAs that took the money of government and kept it in the bank and refused to use and coming to tell us that it was not complete they would be sent back. And some of them may not get appropriation in this new budget because you justify what you took before. What is the essence of asking to give you more. 

“Another thing we are going to be looking out for in this budget is those various resolutions that we reached as a parliament, which supposed to be handled by the various MDAs for them to capture it in their budget. If you ignored the resolutions of the parliament and you drafted your own budget without reference to what the representative of the Nigerian people have asked you to please consider while preparing your budget, you have acted on the frolick of your own.

“It is an exercise in futility because we are going to pick it up and we are going to match it against the legislative compliance committee’s report, who would find out whether the MDAS are complying with legislative resolutions. It is no longer an all comers affair.

“If we move for resolution for example and say while they are considering projects that had to do with ecology in this particular area, considered one two three four projects, and then you ignore them and then out of the blues introduce something that is strange to us, be sure that we are going to question you on that and you will justify it or we take it out.

“i want to guarantee Nigerians that the budget would not be as it came to the national Assembly. It is either it goes up or it goes down. But it would not be garbage in garbage out. A lot of work is going to be done and as you know the House has adjourned to the 9th of November to enable us consider at the committee level this budget so that by the time we come back we would be looking at the work done so far and if there is need to go back again we would go back. So from now till the 9th of November we will be meeting you mostly at the committee level”, he said.


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