For the second time in 24 hours, All Progressives Congress (APC) senators continued to ignore a party directive to block all bills from the Presidency. On Monday, seven APC senators actively participated in the screening of the new Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs. The lawmakers are members of the Committees on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force.
The APC senators participated robustly in the debate of the general principles of the N4.642 trillion 2014 Appropriation Bill with some even calling for the resignation of Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
At a point, some of the APC senators were even asking for more time to contribute to the debate as they argued that five minutes was insufficient and asked that each senator be allowed 40 minutes to talk. Senate President David Mark insisted that the chamber will stick to the allotted time to allow time for members to contribute to the debate.
Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts, Ahmed Lawan and Senator Sadiq Yar’Adua asked Okonjo-Iweala to resign as the budget presented to the National Assembly for consideration is not for the poor. Leading the debate earlier, Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), noted that the bill is deemed to have been read the first time by virtue of its being laid before this distinguished chamber on Thursday, December 19, 2013.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, the bill seeks to authorize the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, the total sum of N4, 642, 960, 000, 000 only as agains the 2013 budget of N4.9 trillion.
“The breakdown of the budget is as follows: (a) Statuary transfers=N399, 687, 801, 891 only; (b) Debt service=N712, 000, 000, 000; (c) Recurrent (Non-debt) expenditure=N2, 430, 665, 361, 597 and (d) Contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure=N1, 100, 606, 836, 512.
“The capital expenditure outlay of the Appropriation Bill 2014 is deliberately structured to improve and effectively address critical areas of the economy. Some of the sectoral allocations that are meant to galvanize and reduce the infrastructure deficit in the country as well as enhance inclusive economic growth are: Sure-P-N268.37 billion, Power-N99.05 billion, Works-N128.65 billion, Defence-N34.33 billion, Police-N6.7 billion, Education-N725.94 billion, Agriculture/Rural Development, N66.64billion, Health, N262.74billion, INEC, N45billion.
Taking it up from there, Lawan informed his colleagues that the North-East will reject the new budget as the N2 billion allocated to tackle insecurity in the region is grossly inadequate.
An unimpressed Senator Sadiq Yar’Adua retorted that the budget holds no hope for the common man while Vice-Chairman of the Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Babajide Omoworare  said, “having listened, it looks as if we have surrendered our legislative duties to the executive. The budget belongs to the parliament and it is our responsibility to tinker with it.”
He sought the chamber’s permission to invoke Section 82 of the 1999 Constitution which would “allow time to dissect the budget.”
The Senate President, however, urged his colleagues to “see the budget from a nationalistic periscope, using a national magnifying glass to view it instead of reducing it to partisan politics.”
“The Amnesty Programme and the 30,000 militants will have N52 billion while defence, combined together, will have just about N34 billion. And what we are saying is that we have a state of emergency in the North East and that security agents should be well funded.
“Our states carry the burden of funding security agencies in our place. Why don’t we fund these security agencies better when you are taking so much money for what is, in my opinion, not more important that the security of our people?
“Hon. minister, throw in the towel. You are not able to achieve what the government wants you to achieve for the citizens; there’s no social safety nets for the people.” At this point, shouts of “your time is up” rent d chamber but Mark extended his talking time and urged him; “try and round up please.”
Lawan also bemoaned the increase in capital expenditure for 2014.
“On Okonjo-Iweala, the recurrent in the 2014 budget is 74 per cent. This was what was provided in 2011 when this administration came in. In 2013, it went down to 71, now we have gone back to 74, how many people are going to enjoy the recurrent. What we are saying is that only about 13 per cent is going to the masses of this country. How do we create jobs and alleviate poverty? The people must be at centre. They should be at the centre of concept, application, practicalisation and implementation of the budget.
“We cannot have peace (in) so far (as) we spend much of our funds on ourselves. we have to spend the bulk of our funds on the people so that everybody will have something to do and everybody would be safe.
Senator Isa Galaudu spoke in support of the budget and urged “all good Nigerians to support it, too but expressed worry that implementation of the budget has been a major source of worry.



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