Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said that the 2019 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly, on Wednesday, does not offer hope to anyone.
Saraki, who is also the Director General, Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Presidential Campaign Council, stated this, yesterday, in Abuja, at an interactive session between the PDP presidential candidate former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The PDP candidate, who had a flight delay, was being expected at the interactive session as at the time of filling this report.
The Senate President said the budget proposal does indicate how it will be funded.
According to him,”yesterday, we all heard the 2019 budget, that is a budget that has no hope for anybody because if you look at the statistics and the figures, there’s poverty, if you look at the figures based on revenues that are coming in… theres nothing left so where’s the future.
“There must be an alternative and that is what we hope that by this evening speaking to our candidate and vice presidential candidate, not based on sentiments , we are not voting on sentiments we are voting on what is the need for you.”
Saraki added:”How is your life going to be better? Which party offers you a better future because we see you as those who are patriotic and committed .
It’s not about what you’ll get today. It’s about the great country a lot of you have been passing that sacrifice over the years.”
The Senate President stated that anyone seeking to lead the country must be able to interact with the people, and expressed doubt if President Muhammadu Buhari would attend the presidential debate scheduled for January 19, 2019.
“This is an interactive session, I am not sure whether the other political parties will give you an opportunity like this to ask them any question.
One has debated and you already know the answer to that debate. On the second one, I am very sure he’s not going to debate. So how do you assess somebody who is not ready to tell you what he is going to do.
“Those days are gone, my good people, the future of this country, a country that leads the continent that is not the example we want to set for this continent.
The whole world is going in a direction, if you’re seeking a position, you must come and tell people what you want to do, you must sit down and they will ask you questions and that is why we are here.”
Similarly,the PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, faulted the 2019 budget.
He said it is unfortunate that 60 percent of the 2019 budget is dedicated to servicing debt incurred by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led federal government in the past three years.
According to him, “When you look at the revenue, we will spend 60 percent to service debt. So what is left? And they will borrow more.
“What they borrowed in 2016 and 2017 is the same PDP borrowed in 16 years. When you ask them they say they use it for capital project.”
Obi noted that under the current administration, Nigeria is now on the negative side of most world indices on development.
The PDP presidential running mate promised that if they are voted into in next year’s election, would work assiduously to get the country working.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday announced the release of over N820.57 billion to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as capital expenditure from the 2018 Budget, saying it would soon increase the figure to N1.1 trillion before the end of the year.
Making the disclosure during the 2019 Budget breakdown in Abuja, Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, said the N820.57 billion represents 43 per cent of the MDA’s capital vote.
She explained that the government has equally made releases to statutory transfer agencies, usually released to them en block and that the amount includes personnel, recurrent as well as capital votes.
“Let me first of all say that the N820.57 billion that has been released is just for MDA capital budgets because we have releases also that go to the statutory transfer agencies that are released to them en block and that amount includes both their personnel, recurrent as well as capital. There are also capital releases that are done as part of the capital supplementation.
“That is to say it’s service wide that is not in the N820.57 billion. The N820.57 billion is 43 per cent of MDA capital. We are working to push this to N1.1 trillion by the end of December and that would be including the statutory transfers,” she said.
The Minister also explained that the depletion in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) from $2.319 billion as at last month to $631 billion this month, amounting to about $1 billion was withdrawn for security purposes. Similarly, she said about N50 billion was refunded on Wednesday into the account.
“The ECA was refunded yesterday (Wednesday) and we had sent another N50 billion savings into the ECA. Recall that NEC had authorised the use of $1 billion from the ECA for security.
“So, the performance of that instruction is what has produced what we have in ECA. So it’s been largely depleted but we are still saving into it and this is the third month we have been saving consistently into the ECA,” she said.