The 2016 Appropriation Bill passed second reading in the House of Representatives yesterday but this was not without lawmakers from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) picking holes in the bill.
Leading the onslaught on the last day of the debate on the budget, House Minority Leader Leo Ogor said it was disappointing that something as fundamental and important as the sum total of the budget was wrongly presented.
According to Ogor who offered to lend the House his personal calculator to calculate what he said was the correct amount for the sum total of the budget, contrary to the document presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, which has the sum total of the budget at approximately N6.077 trillion, the budget total stands at N6.33 trillion.
“We have before us a budget of N6.077 trillion. But the bill before you, I calculated to be N6.33 trillion and I stand to be corrected. I can give you my calculator and maybe you can work it out,” the lawmaker said.
He further criticised the late presentation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which he said was an infraction of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which states that the document be sent not later than three months before the budget is presented, adding that the entire budget process was faulty from the onset.
Speaking after the Minority Leader, Ossai Nicholas Ossai identified a major flaw of the budget to be the inclusion of ministries, departments and agencies such as the Transport ministry and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) that do not have statutory transfer status as such.
“I ride on the presentation of the Minority Leader to say that this budget has failed all known litmus tests,” Ossai said.
Similarly another PDP lawmaker, Oladipupo Kessignton-Adebutu, expressed disappointment that despite the promised change, the Presidency’s overhead was pushed up by N15 billion, while the Judiciary recorded a N3 billion reduction, with overheads by the National Assembly reduced by N5 billion.
In his contribution, Osy Prestige Osy said that the budget lacked immediate plans on how to diversify government revenue away from oil resources. He noted that there was a need for the reduction in domestic borrowing and
deficit expenditure in the budget to be able to manage inflation and increase the nation’s GDP.
Other lawmakers such as Dennis Amadi Abdulrazak Namdas, Golu Timothy, and Dennis Agbo in their separate contributions spoke on the need for government to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil for its
Despite the back and forth, lawmakers unanimously passed the bill when put to a voice vote by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.