Reps pass 2020 appropriation bill through second reading

• As members decry poor capacity of implementing MDAs

The 2020 Appropriations bill on Thursday scaled through second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives after robust debate on the general principle of the N10.33 trillion budget estimates.

Subsequently, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Appropriations and all other Standing Committees to serve as sub-committees, just as the House resolved to suspend plenary session to enable various Standing Committees to interface with Ministers and Heads of various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as from next week.

According to the budget proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari, from the total sum of N10,330,416,607,347 expenditure, the sum of N556,700,827,235 is for Statutory Transfers; N2,748,598,930,000 is for Debt Service; N4,880,309,549,77 is for Recurrent (Non–Debt) Expenditure, while the sum of N2,144,807,300,334 is for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending 31st December 2020.

In his lead debate, Majority Leader, Hon. Olajide Obanikoro who called for improved funding when it comes to provision for health, stated that this would give Nigeria a functioning health system for Nigerians and get people to come from other nations like India enjoys today.

In his presentation, Chairman, House Committee on Basic Education, Hon. Julius Ihonvbere while commending the Executive on the timeliness and attention to details of the budget proposal, however, called for a higher level of investments into the empowerment of women who have proven to be better economic managers, as well as better investments into technical and vocational training to make the workforce more productive and turn them to be employers of labour.

Also speaking, Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu called for a budget implementation that would succeed in practically lifting the economic affairs of Nigerians, and not just on paper.

On his part, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi expressed the hope that the 9th Assembly can say things will be done differently as it relates to budgeting, just as he queried why debt servicing still takes a huge chunk of the budget.

“The poor allocation to relevant MDAs reflect why they also perform poorly compared to their counterparts from other African countries”, he lamented.

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In his intervention, Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu decried the way capital expenditures have been reduced by 23% while taxation on Nigerians was increased without the approval of Parliament which does not represent progress.

Also speaking, Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji called for the development of infrastructure especially in the aviation sector which is the first port of call for prospective investors coming into Nigeria.

In the same vein, Hon. Kolawole Taiwo proposed the development of non-oil sectors such as mineral exploration, extraction and development to boost the nation’s revenue generation base. He also called for the completion of abandoned, but critical developmental projects that will directly impact the lives of Nigerians.

Similarly, Hon. Yusuf Sununu called for the implementation of the 15% budgetary allocation to healthcare as is stipulated by the declaration to which Nigeria is a signatory.

He also called for better funding as investments for revenue-generating sectors such as agriculture, just as he harped on the need for proper oversight by Committees of the House to ensure a better level of fund release and implementation.

Also speaking, chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu who commended the Executive for the timely presentation of the budget proposal as this raises the confidence of the private sector and gives a clear vision for the coming year, however, decried the inability of the nation to meet its tax revenue target which may have led to the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), this he stated is an increase in the tax burden on the populace.

He also called for the encouragement of local businesses by increased local patronage for their products.

In his remarks, Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub called on the government to start thinking outside the box as the annual budget cycle cannot take care of the human and infrastructural challenges of the nation, just as he enjoined the private sector to participate more in the national economic development drive especially in food security and sufficiency, as well as industrial development.

In his brief remarks, Hon. Olanrewaju Kunle bemoaned the lip service paid to actual economic diversification. He explained that unless investments are made in factories that can transform agricultural produce into finished products; no significant revenue can be generated from the agricultural drive, hence the need for agro-related industrial development.

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