Gbajabiamila rebuffs attempt to halt debate on 2020 budget estimate

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila on Wednesday stalled attempt by the opposition party to suspend the scheduled debate on the 2020 budget estimate laid by President Muhammadu Buhari before the joint session of the National Assembly.

In his intervention, Hon. Kingsley Chinda who raised Point of Order 12 (19) argued that it was imperative that the details of the budget accompany the Appropriation bill before it could be considered for Second Reading.

According to him, the Order states that: “During each year, there shall be introduced into the House, an Appropriation Bill which shall contain the estimated financial requirements for expenditure on revenue accounts on all the services of the government for the succeeding financial year. The details of these financial requirements shall be contained in the estimates which shall be presented at the same time.”

But the Speaker said: “Hon. Chinda, you’ve been in this House long enough to know that when we take bills for second reading, what do we do? We debate the general principles and not the details. So, non that note, I rule you out of order.”

While leading debate on the general principle of the 2020 budget, House Leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa, said the time table set out by the House for the consideration of the budget was sacrosanct and as such, no ministry, department or agency would be entertained at the end of October.

Hon. Doguwa who reiterated the House resolve towards the passage of the 2020 budget before the end of the year,

On his part, Majority Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno observed that the philosophical cornerstone of the budget was investing in critical infrastructure.

“Our population is growing at geometric proportion and our ability to put food on the table is growing at arithmetic proportion. I am happy that N83 billion has been earmarked for agriculture, although we are far away from the Maputo declaration.

“Another aspect of concern is N38 billion to the North East Development Commission. We are aware of the devastation of the insurgency I the northeast; the N38 billion will go a long way and the N10 billion on defence centre will also go a long way in equipping the military.

“I am also happy with the exception of VAT given to small businesses under N25 million capital and everyday foodstuff,” Hon. Monguno stated.

While speaking, Hon. Mohammed Jega expressed optimism that proposed hike in the revenue accruing from Value Added Tax as announced by Mr President would be beneficial to States and Local Governments.

“It is important that the VAT regime excludes small scale enterprises with less than N25 million capital and also foods consumed by the people,” Hon. Jega stressed.

In his remarks, chairman of the House Committee on Federal Judiciary, Hon. Luke Anefiok who applauded President Buhari for bringing the budget in time, said: “We were promised infrastructure, we were promised sustained growth in 2020, now I am glad the president tagged this budget of sustainable growth and job creation.

“Of importance is the increase in recurrent expenditure, which the president explained is to take care of minimum wage, and funding of salary of security personnel, because over the years the morale of civil servants has been low. It is important that they are paid.

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On his part, Hon. Francis Ejiroghene Waive commended the Executive for the huge funds allocated to works and power sector.

“Nigerians are impressed with the N100 billion earmarked for defence, especially with the kidnapping and general insecurity we are facing, this is the right step in the right direction.

“The oil benchmark is feasible with our recent history. I will like to point our attention to the steady GDP growth in the past year. It is important that the VAT regime excludes small scale enterprises with less than an N25 million capital and also foods consumed by the people,” he noted.

However, other lawmakers who spoke during the debate expressed concerns over the challenges of infrastructure deficit, youth unemployment, the increase in VAT as well as the diversification of the economy.

As proposed in the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) approved by the National Assembly last week, Federal Government adopted a conservative oil price benchmark of US$57 per barrel, daily oil production estimate of 2.18 mbpd and an exchange rate of N305/$ for 2020 fiscal year.

The parameters also include a 2.93% GDP growth of 2.93% driven largely by non-oil output,  inflation is expected to remain slightly above single digits.

Breakdown of the revenue, the proposed N8.155 trillion revenue comprises oil revenue N2.64 trillion, non-oil tax revenues of N1.81 trillion and other revenues of N3.7 trillion representing 7 per cent higher than the 2019 comparative estimate of N7.594 trillion inclusive of the Government Owned Enterprises.

The expenditure estimate includes statutory transfers of N556.7 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N4.88 trillion and N2.14 trillion of capital expenditure (excluding the capital component of statutory transfers). Debt service is estimated at N2.45 trillion, and provision for the Sinking Fund to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors is N296 billion.

From the sum of N556.7 proposed for Statutory Transfers; N125 billion is for National Assembly; N110 billion for Judiciary; N37.83 billion for North East Development Commission (NEDC); N44.5 billion for Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF); N111.79 billion for Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and N80.88 billion for Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) while allocation to National Human Rights Commission was increased from N1.5 billion to N2.5 billion, representing 67 per cent increase.

Speaking at a briefing after the budget presentation, Chairman of the House Committee of Public Affairs, Hon. Emmanuel Kalu affirmed that the House has come up with a road-map for the January to December budget cycle.

“It is our expectation and we’re working towards that, with this roadmap we have set, that on the 28th of November, 2019 we would have the presentation of the report to the Senate and the House of Reps.

“Our idea is that from the beginning of December 2019, the budget is ready. He said if the House can achieve this, the country can begin a new budget circle from January to December.”

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