BY SOLOMON AYADO and AHURAKA ISAH, Abuja
Senators Tuesday opened debate on the N8.6trillion 2018 budget proposal submitted to it for approval, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
There was drama in plenary when the Senators in their varied arguments, seriously criticised the budget estimates as they described it as imaginary and already dead on arrival.
Among many issues in the budget, the Senators querried that both the 2016, 2017 budget were not implemented to a reasonable percentage and the 2018 budget cannot be exception.
Yesterday, the lawmakers took turns to submit their arguments during the debate on the general principle of the 2018 budget proposal to be passed for second reading.
The lawmakers declared that N11trillion collectible revenue proposed in the budget cannot in any way be met, going by the experience of previous years.
They called for increase in the oil price bench mark from $45 to $50per barrel.
However, the senators knocked the budget estimates on the grounds that the proposals were unrealistic and not based on the achievable non-oil revenue projections as proposed in the 2018 budget by the President.
Leading the debate, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, submitted that all the estimates in the 2018 budget are laudably tailored towards meeting the critical needs of the country, especially at the current democratic evolution and the economy emerges from recession.
According to Lawan, the N8.6 trillion estimates of 2018 budget has a recurrent expenditure of N3.4trillion, capital expenditure of N2.4trillion, statutory transfer of N150billion, and sinking fund of N220billion, among others.
But pouring the first volume of venom on the budget, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) posited that the proposed budget is imaginary and highly fictitious because, according to him, the 2017 budget was not properly implemented.
“What was done in 2017 was less than 15 percent of that budget of what was released . Nothing was done and that was why I called it ( 2018 budget proposal) fictitious. You are assuming eleven trillion, yet you are generating less than one trillion, This is imaginary. We beg this government to be very specific in the indications of the assumptions underlining this budget. The assumptions are totally wrong and totally off the mark”, he stated.
Also, Senator Gorge Akume (Benue North West) , said the oil benchmark of $45 per barrel is not reflective of the reality on ground, adding that it will send wrong signals internationally if the world understands that the budget of the country is based on $45 per barrel especially when the product sells above $60 per barrel in the oil market.
The Deputy Senate Majority leader, Francis Alimekhena, said year in year out, Nigeria is faced with budget, saying that the federal government should raise the oil benchmark. He also said that the over N4 trillion non oil projection cannot be realised.
Joshua Lidani (Gombe-PDP) said the performance of the 2017 budget especially as it relates to capital performance is very abysmal, pointing out that it is expected that by the end of the year, only 50 per cent of the capital fund would have been released for 2017 budget.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the budget can only be realizable if the country’s revenue is boosted.
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