Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate and the House of Representatives, yesterday, commenced the examination of the N13.08 trillion 2021 budget submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly last Thursday.
Senators were given the opportunity to air their views during the first day of debate on the general principles of the budget in the event presided over by Senate President,Ahmad Lawan.
Chief whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, in his contribution, said there was nothing wrong with the Federal Government borrowing to fund the budget.
“When a country goes into recession, it must borrow. We needed to borrow to finance projects. Our borrowing should be long term. There are items in the budget that will help the people. We must help the President and work well on this budget. Our economy can’t afford to collapse. We need to find a way. Let’s forget our party differences. We are all looking for a solution,” Kalu said.
Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while dissecting the document, flayed the administration of President Buhari for overburdening the people with taxes saying the 2021 budget was based on things that are unrealistic.
“This administration can be said to be the most economically jinxed in the history of this country. We need the administration to ensure that what it says must be done. It is time for us to build with a strong foundation. The Government doesn’t know what to do with this economy.
The government is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. It keeps coming up with taxes that overburden the people.
“The current budget is not different from that of previous years. It keeps putting bogus revenue projections it can’t achieve. The budget can’t take us to where we want to go. This budget is based on things that are unrealistic. This 2021 budget doesn’t reflect an understanding that beset this country. How can you budget 100% and then get 30%? This budget is nothing but an old news; nothing new.”
Former Benue Governor, Gabriel Suswam, said plans by the administration to create 10 million jobs annually was unrealistic.
At the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, while leading debate on the Appropriation Bill, stated that the 2020 budget was beset with several challenges, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ado -Doguwa noted that the pandemic adversely affected the country’s projected revenue as it led to drastic fall in the price of crude oil, which affected the economies of different countries across the globe.
Nevertheless, he added that the federal government has been able to release “almost 60 percent of the capital estimate, with promise to release more funds for capital projects before the end of the year.”
Ado -Doguwa expressed optimism that the 2021 budget tagged “budget of recovery and resilience “ will help the government consolidate on the progress it has made in the economy.
On his part, the deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu, stated that it is not enough for President Buhari to christen the 2021 Appropriation Bill, a “budget of recovery”.
Okechukwu said there was need to subject a lot of the expenditure done by the All Progressives Congress(APC) led administration to scrutiny. He noted that some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been remitting only 25 per cent of the revenues generated they generated.