*The world is watching you, President tells jeering lawmakers
*Proposes N8.83 trillion budget for 2019
*Budget, another hollow ritual – PDP lawmakers
By Kassim Omomia, Okechukwu Jombo and Gbenga Salami
Lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP of both chambers of the National Assembly yesterday attempted to outwit one another during the 2019 budget presentation to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari which resulted to cheers and booing the President.
No sooner had the president arrived the green chamber to begin the business of the day than choruses of “freedom must come by struggle; by struggle, freedom come!
While the freedom song continued those possibly of the ruling APC, welcomed the president with Sai Baba, Sai Baba, rendition.
President Muhammadu Buhari entered the chambers at exactly 12:43 pm and after the usual pleasantries with the two presiding officers of the National Assembly he went ahead to read the budget speech.
The session nonetheless began to degenerate into a rowdy one, a development that eventually characterized the budget presentation by the President.
Time without numbers, echoes of hoo! hooh! Sai Baba, Sai Baba continued on the floor at every paragraph introduced by the president.
Apparently worried by the uncontrollable noise and misdemeanour of the lawmakers, the President paused his presentation and warned; “Honourable lawmakers, the whole world is watching you, as lawmakers, you are supposed to be above this.”
The President however said that his government has delivered in line with its economic growth and recovery plan in spite of dwindling revenue accruing to government
He explained that government has increased investments in Agriculture, infrastructural development, power, roads and rail as well as human capital development and empowerment.
Buhari further stated that the 2018 budget parameters for oil production and exchange rates were the same as the 2019 estimates even though the oil production capacity recorded in this current 2018 fiscal year was 1.95mbd against 2.3mbd forecasted.
According to him, capital projects not executed in 2018 will be rolled over into the 2019 budget, noting that next year’s budget thrust will be premised on inflating the economy, diversifying for sustainable growth and lifting Nigerians out of poverty.
On the 2019budget parameters, he said it will be predicated on $60 oil benchmark; 2.3mbd oil production, exchange rate of N305 and a GDP growth of 3.01percent as well as 9.98% inflation rate.
He said government aggregate budget spending for 2019 is N8.83trillion.
According to him, N4.04 trillion has been earmarked for recurrent, N2.31trillion for capital expenditure and 2.14 trillion for debt services.
Others are N492.36billion for statutory transfer, N120 billion as sinking funds and N1.86 trillion for budget deficit.
The President explained further that while it is committed to financing the budget, he has directed that proceeds from looted funds as well as sales of assets of proceeds of crime be used to fund the budget.
On sectoral allocations, the Ministry of Interior had the highest projected votes of N569.07billion, followed by Education which has N462.24 billion allocation.
Others are the Ministry of Defence which has N435.62billion, Ministry of Health N315.62billion etc.
According to him, the allocation to these ministries represents significant increases over votes in previous budgets, underscoring our commitment to increase investment in National Security and Human Capital Development.
“The allocation to the Social Intervention Projects (SIP) has been retained at N500 billion, consisting of N350 billion recurrent and N150 billion capital. This reflects our continued determination to pursue inclusive gender-sensitive and pro-poor growth
“In addition, to maintain the peace in the Niger Delta, the provision of N65 billion for the Presidential Amnesty Programme has been retained in the 2019 budget. Similarly, the sum of N45 billion has been provided for the North East Intervention Fund, as well as the sum of N10 billion as take-off grant for the North East Development Commission.
“To further support Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, which are the focus of our industrialisation drive, we have set aside the sum of N15 billion for the recapitalization of the Bank for Agriculture and the Bank of Industry. In addition, the sum of N10 billion is provided as a grant to the Bank of Industry for the purpose of subsidizing the interest rates charged on loans to Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises. This is intended to make it possible for them to access single digit interest rate loans from the Bank of Industry”, he added.
Also in the budget estimates, while the sum of N45 billion is provided for the North East Intervention Fund, N65billion is also earmarked for funding of the Amnesty Programme in the Niger Delta.
A take off grant of N10bn is also earmarked for the North East Development Commission, NEDC.
Meanwhile members of the House of Representatives caucus of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP have described the 2019 budget as hollow.
Addressing the media shortly after the budget was presented by the President, Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Hon Chukwuka Onyeama said the budget presentation exercise was another hollow ritual.
He said the current administration of the APC didn’t mean well for Nigerians by implementing the 2018 budget by 9.8 per cent only.
Onyeama noted that dismal implementation of budget and violating the Appropriation Act by not implementing the law was the hall mark of the Buhari administration
“It is an impeachable offence” the minority leader noted adding that the government was doing selective implementation of budget since it came to power in 2015.
According to the caucus, so much funds like the Euro bond, Abacha loot and increased oil prices were enough to implement the budget significantly and regretred that Buhari administration failed to utlise the opportunity.
They urged Nigerians to use their PVC to vote out this administration that has resulted to vote buying by paying N10, 000 to impoverished Nigerians.
“We condemn in its entirety the budget 2019, when 2018 is not implemented”, the caucus stated.
Meanwhile, the House has faulted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Eyo Ita for announcing that 50% fund for zonal projects have been released.
Briefing newsmen, House spokesman, Abdulrazaq Namdas said it was not true because no contractor handling the zonal projects has confirmed receipts of any payment alert.
He said the executive arm may be committed to funding the projects but “as we speak we have not accessed anything.”
On the rowdy session, he said it was democracy in action, a development also admitted by APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole who while reacting to the budget praised the President’s presentation which he said touched on all key areas of the nation’s life.