OrderPaperToday – The Senate on Wednesday adjourned plenary till November 9th, 2021 to enable its Committees to begin budget defence sessions with Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). 

Sitting was suspended after senators concluded debate on the general principles of the 2022 Appropriation Bill. President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, in his remarks moments before the chamber adjourned, tasked committees to thoroughly scrutinize budget estimates in the 2022 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly.

He said “the Senate has hereby suspended plenary in order to consider the budget. Thus, there will be budget defence from Monday until November 9th, when we resume plenary.”

Furthermore, Lawan added that “like we did before, we must remain very critical of the proposals presented to us by the executive arm of government. We must ensure equity in the distribution of projects. Also, we must ensure economy in the application of funds. We must question any possible overpricing of items.

“Hence, at the end of the budget defence exercise we should be able to have a budget that covers the interest of all the communities in all parts of the country,” the Senate President said.

Before adjournment of plenary for the budget defence, 42 Senators took turns making their contributions during the second and final day of debate on the 2022 Appropriation Bill. 

Among those who spoke are Senators Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Adelere Oriolowo, Patrick Akinyelure, Ibrahim Gobir, Smart Adeyemi, Ibrahim Abdullahi, George Thompson Sekibo, Christopher Ekpenyong, Betty Apiafi, Mohammed Musa, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Michael Nnachi, and Yahaya Oloriegbe.

Others are: Matthew Urhoghide, Francis Fadahunsi, Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru, Anayo Rochas Okorocha, Oyelola Ashiru, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, Hezekiah Dimka, Binos Dauda Yaroe, Chukwuma Frank Ibezim, Olalekan Mustapha, Chukwuka Utazi, Abba Patrick Moro, Danladi Sankara, and Isah Jibrin. 

Contributing to the debate on the 2022 Appropriation Bill, Senator Ibrahim Danbaba (PDP, Sokoto South) underscored the need for the federal government to include Public-Private Partnership to fund the provision of the provision critical infrastructure needed for economic development. 

Also, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West) called for the urgent diversification of the economy through mining. He added that there are abundant mineral resources yet to be exploited by the federal government. 

On the other hand, Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, River East) advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to develop policies that would help stabilize the country’s exchange rate over some time. The lawmaker also lamented that the implementation of capital projects in the 2022 budget proposal was tied to borrowing. 

In addition, Senator Christopher Ekpenyong (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-West) called for the scrutiny and tinkering of the budget estimates by the National Assembly to ensure that it reflects the needs and meets the expectations of Nigerians. 

On her part, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers West) protested the exclusion of some states as beneficiaries of the loan sourced by the federal government. According to the lawmaker, some states such as Rivers State do not stand to benefit from the loan through projects but are among those to repay the loan obtained by Nigeria. She also called on the federal government to give special attention to the power sector, adding that doing so would attract and promote private investments. 

In his remark, Senator Sani Musa (APC, Niger East) described the 2022 budget outlook as “good”, noting that “Nigeria’s debt level is sustainable”. However, the lawmaker urged the federal government to ensure that borrowed funds are applied to critical projects. Hence, he said that focus must also be given to revenue generation and the examination of the country’s tax framework. He also noted that doing so would ensure strict compliance by taxpayers and boost Nigeria’s revenue collection. 

 Consequently, the Senate President referred the 2022 Appropriation Bill after scaling the second reading to the Committee on Appropriations for further work. The Committee, chaired by Senator Jibrin Barau, was given four weeks to report back to the upper chamber.  

In his concluding remarks Lawan, said, “I want to join all those that have commended Mr. President for presenting the Appropriation Bill 2022 in good time. “This is one of the critical reasons why we can have sufficient time to consider the budgets (2020 and 2021) before the 2022 Appropriation bill were presented.”

Additionally, Lawan said, “I want to also Senators for the sacrifice in processing, consideration and passage of the 2020 and 2021 Appropriation Acts. That devotion, commitment and dedication certainly saw us succeed in passing the previous bills. I’m sure that we are ready to repeat the feat of passing the appropriation bill 2022 before the end of December.

“I agree with those of us who raised the issue of revenue generation, collection and remittances to the coffers of the federal government. The agencies that are supposed to collect and remit revenues would have to be tasked, and this 2022 appropriation bill shows we have over 400 billion coming especially from these agencies as additional revenues. We need to do better.” 

Further, Lawan said that “Government agencies must remit revenues that they generate. We need to also invest in our people, dedication for our youth particularly and, of course, health. Distinguished colleagues’, borrowing like most of us here said, is not bad. What we need to do is to ensure that what we borrow is prudently deployed in those areas of capital infrastructural development.

“The two or three committees that are oil related – Petroleum Upstream and Petroleum Downstream and Gas – need to be very alert to the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act. This is very important because this Act that we passed here is to transform the Petroleum Industry, and at this formative age of the transformation, there is need for us to be very vigilant and oversight very closely to ensure that the taking off is successful.”

On the oversight of Committees, the Senate President said that “we must be very purposeful and at all times for the sole reason of ensuring that government funds are properly and prudently applied to the projects appropriated for. I want to commend the entire National Assembly for ensuring that the previous budgets were passed in good time and, of course, the assent was also the same.”

In closing, he said that “the implementation of 2020 budget was 100 percent. Today, the implementation of the 2021 is about sixty percent. We want to see a repeat of the 2020 implementation, so that we also have 100 percent at the end of the day in December. This is very important because we know that Nigeria came out of recession, and in fact achieved a GDP growth of over five percent because of the implementation of the 2020 funds appropriated.”

After the Senate President’s remarks, plenary was adjourned to November 9th as budget defence is to commence next week Monday.

Courtesy: Office of the President of the Senate 

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