Reps fault budget deficit, loans, $57 oil benchmark, threaten MDAs

The House of Representatives on Wednesday began the second reading of the 2022 Appropriation Bill during which members debated the general principles of the national budget.

The lawmakers took turns to criticise the internal and external borrowings by the Federal Government, the huge budget deficit and failure by the ministries, departments and agencies to generate adequate revenue to finance the budget.

The budget is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, the total sum of N16,391,023,917,692 only, of which N768,276,616,043 only is for Statutory Transfers, N3,901,952,981,550 only is for Debt Service, N6,829,015,483,446 only is for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure while the sum of N4,891,778,836,654 only is for Contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending 31 December, 2022.’

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on Thursday, laid the money bill before a joint session of the National Assembly.

The budget has a total estimate of N16.39tn, the biggest that the Federal Government would ever have.

Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke (PDP/Akwa Ibom), in his contribution, stated that his first concern was the sum of N3.9tn proposed for debt servicing, which he said represented almost 25 per cent of the whole budget.

“This is worrisome and raises some issues and concerns. I believe the Federal Government should look at it and tinker with it,” he said.

Luke added, “Another source of concern is that the proposal before us has a deficit of N6.2tn and the government is proposing new borrowings to finance this deficit.

“What this implies is that, then, the total public debt of Nigeria is expected to rise by N5tn in the 2022 fiscal year. This is worrisome not only for today but generations unborn and the future of Nigeria.

“Let us do what we can to try to reduce the deficit and how we can reduce borrowing.”

Luke stated that recovered loot and misappropriated funds could be used to reduce the deficits and borrowings.

The lawmaker also said that pegging the oil price benchmark at $57 per barrel is ‘totally quite very low’ adding that it was not sustainable.

Also, Chairman of the House Committee on Customs and Excise, Leke Abejide (ADC/Kogi), criticised the loans being taken, oil benchmark and output targets.

Chairman, House Committee on Works, Kabir Abubakar (APC/Bauchi), stressed the need for the committees to investigate how monies allocated to various intervention programmes were utilised and called for an upward review of the amount proposed for road projects.

Abubakar said the Federal Ministry of Works currently had N640bn outstanding certificates, while only N280bn had been proposed for roads in the 2022 budget.

He, therefore, demanded an additional N500bn for the road sector.

For Sergius Ogun (PDP/Edo), annual budgets were poorly implemented. He therefore called for a quarterly review of budgetary performance of the MDAs.

The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP/Delta), said, “My worry is about the loan.”

The Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (APC/Kano), who led the debate on the bill, noted that the budget was huge, blaming it on the new economic realities in the country.

SOURCE: THE PUNCH

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