The Medium Term and Expenditure Framework (2017-2019) proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari narrowly beat rejection, after Senate President Bukola Saraki persuaded his colleagues to pass the document for committee review, following an extensive debate on Wednesday.
There was stiff bi-partisan opposition to the MTEF and the Fiscal Sustainability Paper, FSP, as most of the Senators from both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party expressed preference for rejection of the fiscal proposal.
They said the proposals were unrealistic. Adeola Solomon (APC-Lagos) said Mr. Buhari’s economic team was in disarray, thereby joining others to ask that the documents be returned to the Executive.
But Mr. Saraki, rounding off the debate which saw the Senate vote to extend its sitting beyond 2 p.m., said the documents only contained assumptions and the Senate had a responsibility to “turn them around” through its committees.
“We won’t take documents from the executive and send it back that way.
“Committees should take the comments of everybody and use it to decide,” said Mr. Saraki, softening ground for the vote that was to follow.
The Senate eventually referred the MTEF/FSP to the committees on finance and appropriations, the stiff opposition to the proposals nonetheless.
From a negative growth rate for three quarters consecutively this year, the government targets an increased 3.02 GDP growth rate in 2017.
“I don’t know how this will happen; it can’t work because nothing is happening,” Stella Oduah (PDP-Anambra) commented.
Mr. Solomon fired negative remarks, stating, “This document we have before us is no document. We should return it to them”
“The Economic Team of the President is in disarray. I say this without being sentimental; I say as a true Nigerian,” added Mr. Solomon, close ally of former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu, believed to be eyeing governorship seat of his Ogun home state cone 2019.
Samuel Anyanwu (PDP) expressed satisfaction that both PDP and APC Senators agreed the proposals were unrealistic; so, the documents should be returned.
Abiodun Olujimi, Mohammed Hassan, Foster Ogola and John Enoh – all PDP Senators – also wanted the proposals rejected.
APC’s Dino Melaye dismissed the documents as “not factual”.
However, Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, supported the transmission of the documents to committees for consideration.
Ahmed Lawan, Gbenga Ashafa, Bukar Ibrahim and Jibrin Barau of APC also asked the Senate to refer the documents to relevant committees.
But before the report of the joint finance and appropriations committees on the documents, the Senate will debate performance of the current 2016 budget, Mr. Saraki said.
Meanwhile, the report of the Danjuma Goje-led appropriations committee on Mr. Buhari’s request for virement of N180 billion from the Special Intervention Funds to critical infrastructural projects was laid before the Senate today.