The House of Representatives has commenced debate on the general principles of the 2020 Appropriations Bill.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday presented a spending plan of N10.3 trillion to the National Assembly, making next year’s proposed budget the country’s highest ever.
The proposal shows that about a quarter of the sum (N2.45 trillion) will be used for debt servicing, while capital expenditure gets N2.14 trillion, which excludes the capital component of statutory transfers.
A further breakdown presented by the president shows the expenditure estimate includes statutory transfers of N556.7 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N4.88 trillion and provision for Sinking Fund to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors is N296 billion.
The budget was prepared on the assumption of $57 per barrel with crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day and the exchange at N305 to $1.
Other assumptions include real GDP growth of 2.93 per cent while “inflation is expected to remain slightly above single digits in 2020.”
Before commencing the debate, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), raised a point of order that it was improper for the budget to be attended to without its breakdown.
“The budget is very very unripe for hearing,” he said.
President Buhari has during his presentation on Tuesday said the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, would provide the full details of the budget to the National Assembly.
“The minister yet to provide us with the full details that will enable this budget to be ripe for hearing,” Mr Chinda told the House.
The Speaker in his remark ruled Mr Chinda our of order, stating that the House does not need full details to debate on general principles.
“What the president laid yesterday is actually in line with our Constitution.”
The House leader, Alhassan Doguwa, in whose name the bill was brought before the House, said no agency will be entertained beyond October.
He said the timeline for budget defence by ministries, departments and agencies spelt out by the house was sacrosanct.
Contributing to the debate, the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, said the philosophical cornerstone of the budget is investing in critical infrastructure.
“Our population is at growing at geometric progression and our ability to put food on the table growing at arithmetic progression,” he said.
“I am happy that N83 billion has been earned marked for agriculture, although we are far away from the Maputo Declaration.
“Another aspect of concern is N38 billion to the North East Development Commission. We are aware of the devastation of the insurgency in the North East, the N38 billion will go along way, and the N10billion on the defence centre will go along way in equipping the military.
“I am also happy with the exception of VAT given to small businesses under N25 million capital and everyday foodstuff.”
Another lawmaker, Muhammadu Jega (APC, Kebbi), said the VAT increase as stated by the president will be in favour of state and local governments.”
Francis Waive (APC, Delta) said the 2020 budget shows that the president is sensitive to the plight of Nigerians, especially the money earmarked for Works and Power.
“Nigerians are impressed with the N100billion to Defence, especially with kidnapping and general insecurity.
“The oil benchmark is feasible with our recent history. I will like to point our attention to the steady GDP growth in the past quarter.
“It is important that the VAT regime excludes small scale enterprises with less than N25million capital and also foods consumed by the people.”
Another lawmaker, Luke Anefiok (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), commended the president for bringing the budget in time.
“We were promised infrastructure, we were promised sustained growth in 2020, now I am glad the president tagged this budget of sustainable growth and job creation.
“Of importance is the increase in recurrent expenditure, which the president explained is to take care of minimum wage, and funding of salary of security personnel, because over the years the morale of civil servants has been low. It is important that they are paid.
“Another increase is the Statutory Transfer to National Human Rights Commission, another is the social infrastructure, it is important to build the infrastructure, but the stomach infrastructure is important,” he said.
After a debate that lasted for about two hours, the debate was suspended to the next legislative day for the continuation and possible passage.