The two chambers of the Nigerian bi-cameral legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives, have commenced debate on the 2016 appropriation bill proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The debate commenced Wednesday at the plenaries of the two chambers of the National Assembly, after the adoption of Mr. Buhari’s request to amend the budget.
Leading debate at the Senate, Leader, Ali Ndume, noted that the draft appropriation bill was “unique and a budget of change”.
He expressed confidence that the budget would be the pivotal means to the “change” promised by Mr. Buhari-led All-Progressives Congress government.
Mr. Ndume then presented details of the N6.08 trillion budget.
Of the N6.8 trillion, N351.4 billion is for statutory transfers, N1.5 trillion for debt service, N2.6 trillion for non-debt recurrent expenditure, while N1.8 trillion is for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure.
These details were also presented at the House of Representatives’ plenary by Leader Femi Gbajabiamila, who described the budget as “historical and epic”.
“Epic and historical because it is a budget that is coming at the advent of a historically low oil price and on the heels of a receding economy like never before,” Mr. Gbajabiamila said.
“Epic and historical because it is perhaps the first really all-inclusive budget that seeks to carry all Nigerians along — the rich, the not-so- rich, the poor, the not-so-poor and the vulnerable.
“It is an epic budget because it is a budget based on the internationally acclaimed zero-based budgeting system where every kobo has been newly justified by the MDAs
“It is trite economic principle and economy 101 that when there is a downturn in the economy, you rejig or stimulate the economy by pumping more money into it,” he added.
As expected, the budget debate divided Senators along party lines.
Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia State) noted that the budget was predicated on $38 per barrel of crude oil which now sells at $28.
“Therefore, this budget is dead on arrival,” he said, urging the Presidency to “withdraw the budget and go back to the drawing board.”
Like Mr. Abaribe, Suleiman Adokwe (PDP-Nasarawa State) was also critical of the borrowing proposal “which is almost 50 per cent of the expected revenue to fund the budget.”
But Ahmed Lawan (APC-Yobe State) countered the PDP Senators. He said the budget was not dependent on oil revenue, noting that just over 800 billion is expected from oil sales.
Mr. Lawan therefore argued that sliding oil price would not affect the feasibility of the budget and hailed Mr. Buhari for moving Nigeria away from oil dependency “for the first time”.
He also said “stealing of our patrimony” by the previous PDP administrations necessitated the huge borrowing.
At both chambers, the debate continues tomorrow.