The 2017 N7.29 trillion budget proposal was subjected to critical scrutiny at the Senate yesterday with senators picking holes in several sectorial allocations. Some lawmakers maintained that Federal Government’s plan to diversify the economy did not get the desired attention in the budget.
Many senators also observed that it might be impossible for government to get the projected borrowing to fund the budget, stating that similar 2016 projections were not realised.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided over the debate, disclosed that the budget scrutiny would be concluded today and it would be committed to the Appropriation Committee.
The Senate would suspend plenary sitting for two weeks to allow its standing committees carry out budget defence sessions with Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).
Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Lanre Tejuoso (APC, Ogun Central), lamented that 11 million Nigerian children have not been fully developed due to inadequate funds to the health sector.
Aliyu Wammako said the budget failed to adequately address the issue of diversification of the economy. “We have agriculture and solid mineral sectors. They have not been addressed well.”
Dino Melaye described Buhari’s government as visionless. “The government of Shehu Shagari built estates in all the states. Sani Abacha developed the Vision 2010. Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan all had their agenda. What is the agenda of this current government? We need to define one.”
John Enoh from Cross River State urged the president to sustain the ongoing peace efforts in the Niger Delta region if enough funds must be generated from oil to fund the budget.
Deputy Minority Whip, Biodun Olujimi, said the budget failed to address how the country will be taken out of its current economic recession.
Solomon Adeola from Lagos State queried the non-disclosure of excess money realised from the sale of crude oil. He said since the 2016 budget was predicated on an oil benchmark of $38, the government needs to tell Nigerians how much it had realised from the excess money made.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Albert Bassey Akpan, decried the borrowing plan of the Federal Government and disclosed that the deficit in the budget is the same as the amount budgeted for capital projects.
Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos State) urged his colleagues to examine the performance of the 2016 budget before they give nod to the passage of the 2017 budget.