The two chambers of the National Assembly on Thursday delivered a clear and unequivocal signal that they would block President Goodluck Jonathan’s plan to devote nearly a fourth of the 2012 budget to domestic security, hinting that they would force reductions to fund other key sectors.
At above N921 billion, security- comprising the police, the military and the ministry of interior- by far got the largest share of the N4.749 trillion budget the president presented to the lawmakers on Tuesday.
The amount is four times what is given to health, about six times the spending for power, and more than 10 times what is proposed for agriculture, and is seen to be central to the administration’s effort at contending deadly threats posed by insurgents such as the Boko Haram.
However, a Premium Times analysis of the huge estimate, has shown that much of it would be channeled into funding recurrent expenditures within the defence sector, with hardly much to finance strategic response to the threats as believed.
Still, the lawmakers, at separate sessions, made clear the president’s plan would not be passed without significant reductions, with members comparing the amount with a war-situation financing.
“We are not in a war situation,” the House said through its spokesperson, Zakari Mohammed. “The House is definitely going to look at the possibility of scaling down security so that more funding can be given to power, education, agriculture. The house is very concerned about these areas.”
The senate gave a second reading to the proposal though, but assured changes would be effected at the appropriation committee level, as well as during the final considerations before a third reading.
Senators said while they do not downgrade the threats the nation faces daily, they would rather back efforts directed at addressing their causes.
“The prioritization of outspending is not reflective of what is happening in our economy,” Olubunmi Adetokunbi, senator from Ekiti State, said amid a heated debate by senators. “If we spend more on agric which can provide jobs we wont worry about security.”
Abdul Ningi, from Bauchi State, questioned the content of the blanket security vote announced by the president.
“We should know what they are doing with this money how much is going to the office of the national security adviser viz-a-viz what is given to the police and the navy. Niger Delta is another issue. What happened to the funds budgeted for amnesty, nobody knows how much money has been given to militants and where they are?”
The Nigeria Labour Congress has already dismissed the budget as a disaster in waiting.
But the House spokesperson, Mr. Mohammed, said the concerns would be dispelled after the budget had been adjusted by the House.
“The NLC should not have any fear as far as the seventh national assembly is concerned. I’m sure by the time we are through with the budget; we’ll come up with a document that is workable even the executive itself will agree that it is better.”