…Lawmakers Express Divergent Views on 2022 Expenditures

There were mixed reactions yesterday to the N16.39 trillion 2022 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari. While some federal lawmakers, especially the House of Representatives Minority Caucus, described the budget estimates as drab and uninspiring, others, including senators and House of Representatives members, said the appropriation bill signified hope for the teeming populace.

The House Minority caucus, in a speech by its leader, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, at the 94th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of PDP in Abuja, said the budget had no solution to the challenges facing the nation.

Elumelu said the president “ridiculously” asked for debt forgiveness, on the one hand, and on the other, he was busy seeking more loans, thereby making a mockery of the country as an, “unserious country led by a clueless government.”
He assured that the caucus would do all in its powers to lobby for the redirection of the budget for the benefit of Nigerians.

Elumelu said, “As representatives of the people, our caucus took the president to task on his speech, in which he failed to present the ugly reality of the failures of his administration to the world body.
“As we speak, innocent and defenseless Nigerians are being killed on daily basis by terrorists and bandits. Our citizens can no longer move freely across their country. Today, our economy is in shambles; there is anger, frustration and hopelessness everywhere.

“Most Nigerian families can no longer afford their daily meals and other basic necessities of life; they go to bed on empty stomach and wake up with no hope of breakfast or even lunch. Our productive sectors have been wrecked by the APC. Their only hope of survival is to have the PDP back in power.”
In his reaction, Hon. Babatunde Ayeni said the main expectation was on security, saying the country is going nowhere without adequate funding of the security sector.

Ayeni stated, “On the budget of N16.39 trillion, our expectation is especially on security. This time around, everybody in Nigeria is talking of security and if you do not fund that aspect of the budget well, we are not going anywhere.
“The police need more funds that even last year. I am the Deputy Chairman of Police Affairs (committee. If you say police must perform, automatically they must be funded.”

In his reaction, Senator Ayo Akinyelure said he believed that the budget was aimed at fixing the country, saying the lawmakers have done their best to meet the January – December budget cycle.
Senator Olamilekan Adeola described the fiscal plan as a budget of hope.

According to him, “We hope it will take us out of misery, given critical attention to education and security. He (Buhari) has given assurance that the deficit will be financed by borrowing. He has said we have nothing to fear, the borrowed tied to specific verifiable projects. We are convinced it will take care of our needs.”

Adeola said he was not bothered about the debt profile, because the president had given an outline of how to finance the loans, adding that with time the direction of the budget will take would be unveiled.
On his part, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele said the budget estimate as laid yesterday showed consciousness on the part of the leadership that it was not yet Uhuru.

He stated, “We must spend our ways out of recession. Recurrent is taking more money, and giving the government a human face. But capital spending will help to develop our infrastructure.
“By and large, what is important is implementation by ensuring that MDAs are able to implement diligently and we don’t fail in our oversight to monitor the spending and for Nigerians at large, to monitor in their various constituencies.

“We must all ensure that every naira borrowed is spent on capital projects that will percolate to the ordinary Nigerians and take us out of recession.”
Adding his voice, Senator Uba Sani said infrastructure development and education were key to the country’s growth and development.

According to him, the National Assembly needs to increase the level of oversight to ensure that key revenue generating agencies add value to the federation account
Senator Ishaku Abbo said, “The 2022 budget is to stimulate economic recovery. By the passage of the PIB, we are confidence that Nigeria will now have more money.

“I believe the budget should be more. I know you will ask about the issue of borrowing. Nigeria is not the only country that borrows money.”
Abbo said he had no problem with borrowing to fund the budget in as much as money borrowed would not be used for payment of salaries, but for infrastructure development.

In his contribution, Senator Abdullahi Adamu said since the budget was the last budget the present administration would implement fully, the government would ensure that projects started were completed.
Adamu said, “Every country is borrowing. England is owing over €3 trillion. So, we must borrow about N6 trillion to fund the budget. Every country is borrowing.”
On her part, House Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, expressed excitement that the 2020 budget had gender issues incorporated in it.

According to Onyejeocha, “The president said this is the first time that gender issues are being included in the budget. I’m excited because what it simply means is that this president has decided to work the talk. We are going to look at the details and key in from there.”
Onyejeocha said the budget gave her hope that the president had been listening to women, saying all Nigerian women are excited about this budget.

She added, “This is about the second time that the budget is being released 100 per cent. I don’t know if you know what that means. What it simply means is that we are not going to have abandoned projects because when you release 40 per cent, it means the work will be done 40 per cent, but when you release 100 per cent, it means a lot of projects will be concluded.”

Onyejeocha also highlighted the president’s political will to fund the projects.
She added, “People are saying it is loan, everybody takes loan. The most important thing is that when you take the loan, then you use it judiciously and as parliament, we are going to make sure that we track our money.”

Hon. Ben Igbakpa said there was need for the lawmakers to assist the president through their oversight function in ensuring that the MDAs were monitored to ensure that there was no revenue leakage.
Igbakpa said, “A budget is a statement of intention, so we hope to get 100 per cent. We are going to ensure in our oversight function that every MDA does what they are ought to do and stay on the executive to ensure, especially those revenue generating agencies to ensure that they bring the funding because if there is no money, there is nothing anybody can do. We must ensure that the revenue comes in to ensure the implementation of the budget as envisaged by Nigerians. We are looking at 100 per cent.”
Adding his voice to the debate, Hon. Babajimi Benson stressed that no country could develop without infrastructure.

Benson said, “They say that a nation that has infrastructure is a rich nation. Nigeria should do whatever it can to ensure that borrowed funds are used to fund infrastructure. I’m happy today that Mr. President also said that the 2021 budget will be funded 100 per cent and that before the end of his administration all on-going infrastructure will be completed, that is good news for Nigerians. It is good news if we complete all the road projects, it is good news when we complete all the rail projects.
“At the end of the day, it is for the betterment of our citizenry. We should all pray that Mr. President completes these projects as said. So once that is done it will be a new dawn of prosperity for us in Nigeria.”