BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA – The Senate on Wednesday commenced debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari had on Tuesday presented a budget estimate of N10.33 trillion for the year 2020 at a joint sitting of the National Assembly.
The debate on the Appropriation bill saw senators making their contributions on different aspects contained in the budget proposals just as some of the senior legislators drew the attention of the executive arm of government to certain areas that needed some tweaking to enhance the economy.
In his contribution to the debate, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, bemoaned the amount allocated for the implementation of capital projects in the 2020 budget, saying that N2.14 trillion proposed as capital expenditure is insufficient to stimulate the Nigerian economy along a trajectory that guarantees growth.
In the words of Abdullahi; “The capital budget is too small. When you look at it in terms of investment, it’s a mere drop in the ocean, and therefore incapable of stimulating the economy to a higher growth trajectory. This has been the problem of the national economy for more than 30 years. We have been tethering on the edge; any small disturbance, either in the domestic or international scene will mean the economy crashing.
“When we realise the need to diversify the economy away from oil, we also refuse to accept the fact that we have to change our approach to planning, revenue generation and even budgeting.”
In his own contribution, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central) commended both the executive and legislative arms of government for ensuring that the 2020 Appropriation Bill was laid before the National Assembly in such a manner that shows it will not be business as usual.
Bamidele however drew the attention of the upper chamber to legal concerns expressed by some Nigerians over the conflict likely to arise as a result of a clash in the budget cycle for 2019 and 2020, adding that the yet-to-be implemented aspects for the 2019 fiscal year should be collapsed into the 2020 budget.
Speaking on the loan component of the budgetary proposal, Bamidele cautioned the Federal Government against securing domestic loans as proposed as he noted that President Buhari made it clear that the N1.7 trillion out of N2.4 trillion that would be borrowed to finance 2020 budget deficit will come from domestic loan, while about N700 billion will come from foreign loan.
He further said; “If we add this to what has already been borrowed from domestic sources, it means a growing figure. My concern is that much as government needs to borrow money from domestic sources, I fear that if care is not taken government might become a major competitor in a way that might stifle the capacity or ability of the private sector to be able to draw the necessary loan facility from the local banks. This is a call for concern and something government needs to look into.”
Bamidele called for increased funding for the Judiciary, adding that the federal government must consider addressing aspects that have to do with remuneration of Judges.