The 2014 budget yesterday scaled second reading in the House of Representatives, amid tackles from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers.
With this, the draft budget will be handled by the committees. During the debate on the budget, the APC, PDP and other parties’ lawmakers differed on the importance of the estimates to the needs of Nigeria.
Whereas the Minority Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, described the budget as a voodoo document, which would stunt its growth and development of the country, instead of improving it, the Majority Leader, Hon Mulikat Adeola-Akande and her deputy, Hon Leo Ogor, said the budget was well-thought out and had the capacity to sustain the country’s growth.
A group, National Unity Group (NUG), made up of House members in the PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party and Accord Party, also lauded the documents, saying the budget captured the welfare needs of Nigeria and the general interests of the country.
The APC leaders recently directed its members in the National Assembly to block executive bills, including the 2014 budget. The directive was visited with outcry in some circles. The lawmakers however, pledged to do the “right thing.”
Hon Yakubu Dogara (APC, Bauchi), who kicked off yesterday’s debate, flayed the proposed N7billion earmarked by the executive for the forthcoming national conference, describing it as a “waste.”
Dogara, while citing similar proposal in the 2013 budget estimate, with N8billion allocation for the building of African First Ladies Secretariat in Abuja, which the National Assembly rejected, urged the House to review the amount during the consideration.
Arguing in the same line, Hon Mohhamed Monguno (APC, Borno), who is the chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, faulted the reduction of the sector’s allocation from the 2013 budgetary allocation.
He explained that there was a reduction of about N20billion from last year’s N80billion, against this year’s N60billion, which, according to him, will leave the sector far less than the recommended 10 per cent charter signed by most African countries, including Nigeria.
However, in his argument, Hon Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) praised the budget. He declared that at the rate of 6.5 percent growth, the Nigerian economy was doing extremely well, considering the one digit inflation rate of 8.0 percent.
Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi) also commended the budget proposal, citing the allocation to education and works sectors.
According to him, allocation to education would solve infrastructural problems agitated for by university lecturers, while tasking his colleagues to increase the ratio of recurrent expenditure allocation in favour of capital expenditure.
“We have a duty to ensure that our budget is implementable,” he added.
Saying that the allocation of N59billion to the energy sector was fantastic, he also commended President Goodluck Jonathan for allocating subsidies to five million farmers from each geo-political zone.
Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) said the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was critical to the revamp of the country’s petroleum sector that is still grappling with outdated Joint Ventures Agreement (JVA)
While she also described the budget as that of consolidation, the lawmaker said Public Private Partnership (PPP) for projects would help further demonstrated that they do not have the interest of the common man at heart.”
THE SUN-IHEANACHO NWOSU