Ben Bruce: Nigerian Senator ridicules Buhari’s 2018 proposal as ‘budget of active imagination’
Debate on the N8.612 trillion 2018 Appropriation Bill opened Tuesday in both chambers of the National Assembly with senators faulting some of its projections, describing them as unrealistic.
Specifically, some senators called for an upward review in the crude oil price benchmark from $45 per barrel to about $50.
Many of them, as well as some members of the House of Representatives, also expressed their reservations over what they called the abysmal implementation of the N1.2 trillion capital component of the 2017 budget.
Opening the debate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia PDP) described the 2018 budget of consolidation as fictitious, saying it did not consolidate on previous budgets as claimed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
His use of the word ‘fictitious’ however did not go down well with the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe APC), who said the description was not parliamentary, therefore, unacceptable.
Abaribe agreed to withdraw the word ‘fictitious’ but replaced it with ‘imaginary’ and maintained that the implementation of previous budgets of the administration was low.
He said: “I am just quoting the Senate Leader from his speech, which said the 2018 budget was designed to consolidate on the achievements of the 2016 and 2017 budgets. What was done in 2017 when less than 15 per cent of that budget was released? Nothing was done and that was why I called it (2018 budget proposal) fictitious. I am very sorry if that is the word he is bothered about. I will withdraw the word ‘fictitious’ and use ‘totally imaginary.”
Abaribe said the receivables (revenue) of the government were exaggerated, adding that the 2018 budget was predicated on assumptions that facts had already destroyed.
“The 2018 budget is already dead on arrival,” he stated.
Supporting Abaribe’s position, Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa PDP) said the proposal was a budget of active imagination, with 25 per cent going to debt servicing.
“We have to decide what the exchange rate really is. Is it N305 (to US$1) or N365?” he asked.
Bruce maintained that the cost of governance in Nigeria remained high with agencies that had outlived their usefulness, and bloated workforce drawing overheads and salaries from the federal government.
“FRCN (Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria) has 8,000 workers. Sell it to the staff. Who listens to the Voice of Nigeria (VoN)?” he asked.
The senator further said while the multi-billion dollar rail contract between the Ministry of Transport and a Chinese firm was a laudable one, the intricate details should be thoroughly examined by the Senate, to explore which parts can be handled domestically.
“We have steel, Ajaokuta is there. Why don’t we use that facility and create jobs through that,” he suggested.