The Nigerian Senate has commenced work on the 2019 budget.
On Wednesday, the first of two days set aside for deliberations on the second reading of the appropriation bill, the senators for hours discussed the modalities of the budget.
The N8.83 trillion budget was presented to a joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 19, 2018.
The proposed budget shows that about a quarter of the sum (N2.14 trillion) will be used for debt servicing while capital expenditure is expected to gulp N2.031 trillion.
A further breakdown shows that proposed recurrent expenditure is N4.04 trillion, the statutory transfer is N492.36 billion, there is a sinking fund of N120 billion, while capital expenditure is N2.031 trillion.
The budget was prepared on the assumption of $60 per barrel with crude oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day. The exchange rate is assumed at N305 to $1.
The House of Representatives had on January 29 passed the bill for a second reading but the Senate will take two days (Wednesday and Tuesday, March 19) to debate the bill before passage.
On the first allotted day, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said the government should be cautious in its borrowing.
“we should caution ourselves (in borrowing) before we mortgage our future,” he said. “There should be creative ways to fund infrastructure apart from borrowing,” he added.
He urged the federal government to work towards returning the budgetary year to a January to December cycle.
His position was countered by Ibn Na’Allah, Senate Deputy Majority Leader, who said the country is currently under-borrowing.
“Considering our population, our resources, experts will tell you that we are grossly under-borrowing,” he said.
Shehu Sani (Kaduna-PRP) lauded the federal government on the 500 billion allocation to Social Intervention Programme (SIP) while calling for an audit.
Other senators urged several committees of the Senate to expedite work on the budget.
The deliberation will continue on Tuesday when the Senate reconvenes.