Senate begins debate on 2021 appropriation bill

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The Senate on Tuesday began debate on the 2021 budget of N13.08 trillion.

The Senators during plenary took turns to make submissions on the budget.

Our Correspondent reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday, Oct. 8, presented the proposed appropriation bill before a joint session of the National Assembly.

Buhari said the Budget tagged: “Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience” will address key economic issues as the country tries to recover from the impact of the coronavirus and the oil price drop.

Contributing, Senate Leader, Sen. Abdullahi Yahaya Abubakar said that the bill was deemed to have been read the first time by virtue of its being laid before the Joint Session of the National Assembly.

“This Bill seeks to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N13, 082, 420, 568, 233 only for the year ending on Dec. 31 2021.

“Today, we are in interesting, difficult and tumultuous times, not only in our country but throughout the world.

“We have arrived at a watershed; a crossroad in history when we cannot afford to make any grievous mistake that could plunge our nation and our people into turmoil and self-destruction.

“It is a time for sober judgement, reflection and statecraft.

“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, we are all witnesses to the cacophony of voices and opinions of some leading members of our society, our compatriots who out of genuine concerns, frustration, sense of entitlement or sheer political bravado, call for the dismemberment of this nation.

“The constitutional reform process is there in the National Assembly to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians for restructuring and reshaping our federation to make it an inclusive and all-embracing polity.

“We as Senators of the Federal Republic, should not contemplate the dangerous and destabilising temptations of dismembering our federation.

“We must stand by the honour of our status, our convictions and our oath of office which is to preserve and protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians, as a whole.

“We are obliged to place the social and economic challenges we face today in their proper historical perspectives with a view to determining the best course of action for our people and our nation at this point in history. “

Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe said that “this budget is nothing but the same.

“We have a budget based on unrealistic expectations. We are not also so sure what the oil situation is going to be.

“If the budget is based on assumption, I agree but we are not assuming properly. I want to go ahead and say it does not reflect the understanding of the fundamental challenges of today.

“This budget is nothing but old news. Every time the same old news, nothing new,” he said.

Also, Sen. Gabriel Suswam (PDP-Benue) said that “the budget is themed economy recovery and resilience. It means something has gone wrong and you want to repair something that has gone wrong.”

He said that the issue was not a partisan one but was about Nigerians.

“Most of the time, when you do domestic borrowing, you crowd out the private sector. Mr. President’s intention of creating jobs is not actualisable.

“We are literally violating the laws we have set out. The leader mentioned in page 4 that the budget is not sustainable. The deficit has gone beyond three per cent.

“For every N100 earned, N60 goes to debt servicing. When will borrowing end?

Similarly, Sen.George Sekbio (PDP-Rivers) noted that the budget of N13.08 trillion had a deficit of N5.20 trillion.

“How can the capital project be lower than the deficit? I hope when we get the money, it is properly utilised,” he said.

Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (PDP-Enugu) said that for the first time, the debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was over three per cent.

“I want the Committees on Finance and Appropriation to find a solution to this.

“I have been very worried about the way we are going in terms of borrowing. I am concerned on the loan being given by China.

“They will not let you go off any of the debt because all the monies are for specific projects and if they are not done they take over.

“The other issue is the issue of social intervention. We have spent a lot of money on it but we still have young men who are looking for jobs.”

Ekweremadu a former Deputy Senate President said that the real issues had to be dealt with by investing in Information Communication Technology and modern agriculture.

“We must create life style centre around agriculture and in modern farms. Until we do that, it will remain unattractive to our young people.

“The last issue is on value to cost. The government is making certain expenditures on health centres but what has happened is that those health centres are not put to use because there are no doctors or nurses.”