BY AHURAKA ISAH and SOLOMON AYADO, Abuja
The executive and the legislature yesterday rekindled their rivalry over seemingly and emerging dismal performance of the 2017 budget.
The Senate described as unacceptable the release of less than 15% of the N2.240 trillion voted for capital projects in the N7.44 trillion budget.
The budget which was passed in May by the two chambers of the National Assembly was consequently signed into law by the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on June6, 2017.
Senate had on September 26, 2017 summoned the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and her Budget and National Planning counterpart, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma respectively to appear before it over what it termed poor funding of the 2017 budget by the executive.
The resolution of the Red Chamber followed a motion raised by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC/ Kebbi) tagged ‘Stabilizing and Sustaining Post Recession Growth of the Economy.’
Abdullahi noted in the motion that only about 10 per cent of the N7.4 trillion budget had been implemented so far, despite the fact that it is barely three months to the end of the year.
Most of the Senators who spoke yesterday pointed out that such development will be very inimical to the fate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the next election.
After intense grilling of Adeosun and Udoma, the two ministers told the lawmakers that the federal government can no longer fund the capital projects provided for in the 2017 national budget.
The ministers insisted that until and except the Senate approves the foreign loan borrowing plan the federal government had earlier submitted to it, it will be impracticable to make further release to finance the capital projects as provided for in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
Udoma linked the poor implementation of the 2017 budget to the delay by Senate in approving federal government’s plan to borrow some money to fund the budget.
On her part, Adeosun told the Senate joint committee on Finance and Appropriation that the federal government has so far released the sum ofN3.40 billion to fund capital projects for which the sum of N2.240 trillion was budgeted.
“At the end of this week we would have released about N440.9 billion for capital project in 2017”, she added, even as she also informed the Senate that cumulative releases on current expenditure is N1.5trillion
The minister said N128.8 billion has been released for statutory transfers, while funds released for Pensions stood at N37.8billion, just as for overheads, N92.4billion has been released, while service wide votes has so far gulped 223.6billion
The budget passed by National Assembly and signed by the then acting president last June showed that Statutory Transfers got N434 billion, whileN1.8 trillion is for Debt Servicing, N177.5 billion for Sinking Fund for Maturity Bonds and N2.99 trillion for Recurrent Non-Debt Expenditure.
When so much pressure was put on her by Senators, the minister disclosed that 60% of the budget for capital will be rolled over to the 2018 budget.
This disclosure attracted further criticisms by lawmakers who queried her on how practicable it would be to implement projects budgeted for in 2017 and the ones in 2018.
Asked to explain why many workers in some federal agencies were not being paid their salaries despite the fact that the salaries have been accommodated in the budget, Adeosun said it was due to the illegal recruitment in most of those agencies.
According to her, “although the illegal recruitment has been there in the past, the practice is more rampant now”.
Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, informed the lawmakers that of the N2.05 trillion earmarked as revenue to fund 2017 budget, only N1.2 trillion has been realised so far.
As law makers took their turn to condemn the poor implementation of budget, Senator Barau Jibril of the APC from Kano State said, “We are now in the month of October, which leaves us with less than three months to the end of the year. What you have released is not up to the total amount budgeted for a quarter of the budget- I mean the capital budget as a whole.
“And now we just have about two months to go. How do you reconcile this with the intention of the government to continuously stimulate the economy so that the economy will continue to be active in a way that jobs will be provided for our citizens?
“Don’t you think there’s a conflict between the intention of the government to reflate the economy and what you are doing now, and don’t you think this will cause big problem for our economy?” He queried.
Barau continued: “There is a big problem. We are politicians and when we go by what we are hearing, things are not going on fine. It has never been as worse as this. I have been a player, particularly in respect to public expenditure right from 1999 till date.
“Whereas you talked about how we are doing very well in terms of revenue projection, yet we are having this problem. So, I think there’s a big problem and this is really injurious to our party, the APC. We do not want to have problem in our party; we don’t want problem in our government”.
Senate Constitutes Panel over deplorable state of foreign missions
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday constituted an ad hoc committee to meet with relevant stakeholders, to ascertain the extent of alleged poor funding and deplorable state of Nigeria missions abroad.
The Red Chamber decried the embarrassing conditions of most of Nigeria embassies, calling for the trimming of the number to enable the country effectively fund the missions.
This resolution followed a motion by Senator Tijjani Yahaya Kaura (APC, Zamfara North), titled, ‘the urgent need for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund our Foreign Missions’.
Leading the debate on the motion, Senator Kaura said, “Nigerian diplomatic missions were facing several challenges, including their inability to pay home based officers allowances, local staff salaries, rent for residences, chanceries and other staff official quarters, in addition to the dire lack of funds for other sundry expenses such as; visits to Nigerians in jail and provision for other consular services.”
He regretted that there are threats by host countries to revoke building permits of some properties abroad belonging to Nigerian missions, following their poor structural conditions, which constitute hazard to the communities where such buildings are situated, and lack of routine maintenance that would bring such structures in line with the building codes of host countries.
…Asks FG To Remove Speed Bumps On Highways
Also, the Senate yesterday directed the ministry of Power, Works and Housing to remove all speed bumps indiscriminately erected on the nation’s highways.
The Red Chamber also asked the ministry to put alternative system in place that is capable of stopping over speeding on the highways by motorists.
Senate’s resolutions followed a motion jointly brought for its consideration by Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC-Benue) and Senator Stella Oduah (PDP-Anambra) titled, ‘urgent need to control the indiscriminate erection of speed bumps on federal roads nationwide.’
The upper chamber further prayed the federal government to put up regulations for motor parks, markets and places of worship, to avoid obstructions that were currently being witnessed in these areas.
Presenting the motion, Senator Gemade noted that thousands of speed bumps were recently erected on almost all federal highways nationwide to control speed of motor vehicles plying the roads.
He lamented that the bumps were “indiscriminately erected in several communities, villages, hamlets, petrol stations, markets, and individual homes”.
The lawmaker said that federal highways were meant for smooth traffic flow, urging that there should be no restriction to free flow of traffic.
In his remarks at the end of contributions by senators, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, subjected the prayers in the two motions to voice vote and they were unanimously supported by the members.