Sharp disagreements yesterday ensued between Peoples Democratic Party, PDP senators and their All Progressives Congress, APC colleagues over sensitive aspects of the 2016 budget, particularly the plan by the federal government to borrow over N2.2trillion to fund the fiscal policy.
Senate leader, Senator Ali Ndume had kicked off the debate on the budget, extolling President Muhammadu Buhari for the ‘Budget of Change’.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South) nonetheless opened the flood gate of the contention when he said: “This budget is unique and titled `Budget of Change’… the first budget that has ever been sent out to the public of Nigeria and after the budget presentation, the finance minister has never come to explain the details of the budget as it is normally done.
“It is a budget of change I agree but it is a change in the wrong direction; because it says that it is based on zero budgeting requiring all expenses to be fully justified. Mr President, a budget that increases spending up to 30 per cent based solely on borrowing, in what way is it justified? That is the question we want to ask the people who brought this budget as change.”
He added that, “a budget that moves domestic spending within Aso Villa from N580 million to N1.7 billion cannot be a budget of change. We were told that in the revised budget, there was an adjustment due to error. We agree, but what has happened is that up to N7 billion was moved from buying vehicles to being spread in offices.
“It also increases the spending that is due to renovations within the Villa: they are going to renovate the Villa with N3.9 billion. What else do you want to renovate there that Nigerians will see in the Year 2016?”
Senator Ahmed Lawan, APC senator in trying to defuse the tension created by Abaribe however blamed the borrowing on the last administration under Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
But Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu sustained Abaribe’s argument, saying “I am not an economist but I know that if my income is N100,000 and suddenly I start earning N30,000 and I tell my children that we will now be spending N120,000, they will start wondering where I will get the money.
“The problem we have is that over the years, we have seen prosperity and we have adjusted to it and now we are seeing a downward trend in our revenue, and we don’t seem to be addressing this issue. We have always increased the budget of this country from between 10 and 20 percent, I just want to appeal that for the first time we should be able to reduce that budget by the same 20 to 30 per cent. That is in order for us to be realistic otherwise it will not be implementable.”
Chairman,Senate Committee on Finance, John Enoh, on his part said, “The budget has quite some fine points no doubt. But I think that on a debate of this nature, we need to also be able to draw on some of the matters that will concern everyone. The budget seeks to stimulate the economy for example through economic diversification, import substitution, export expansion and promotion.”
He contended that, “There’s already an injection of some kind of new leadership in various revenue generating agencies. There is also the fine point about zero budgeting, which attempts to optimise the impact of public expenditure in aligning resources to government programmes. The Ministry of Finance has been quite foremost in efficiency management. It has also indicated the fact that the implementation of Integrated Personnel Information System is going to be extended to all MDAs.
“In spite of how many years we have implemented IPIS, it’s sad to say that less than 50 percent of MDAs have been covered. And the innovation by the Ministry of Finance is that they are going to use the BVN to extend IPIS. Having gone through the real details of the budget, but I think that the expenditure item for IPIS needs to be under control if the BVN is going to be used for that purpose. There is also the emphasis on having to ensure microeconomic stability by attempting to make sure that the real GDP growth rate for 2016 is about 4.37 percent. I think that for a country that the third quarter of 2015, the real GDP growth rate was less than 3 percent, it’s perhaps too optimistic that we can achieve that kind of growth rate, especially given the international situation with the economy the world over.
“Now going into the real statistics, this budget is based on assumptions. And there are a few assumptions that we must look out for. For the first time in about 17 years, the National Assembly may now have to take a decision about the downward review of the oil price benchmark. I’m not too sure when this budget is going to be passed but I think we need to be careful and look at what the market price of oil is going to be at the time that this budget is going to be passed.
“The second element has to do with the Exchange Rate figure, which this budget has pegged at N197. If you compare that to the parallel market in spite of the implication that it may have in the purchasing power of the Naira, we need to be a little bit more realistic and practical in terms of what the real Exchange Rate should be.”

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