**It’s the best ever – APC Senators
**An epic budget, says Gbajabiamila as Reps begin debate
While PDP members of the Senate hailed Abaribe’s position, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were obviously incensed and at different times rose in defence of the budget which they described as the best ever in the history of budgeting in Nigeria.
As this was going on at the Senate, the House of Representatives too on Wednesday commenced debate on the corrected version of the 2016 Appropriation Bill of N6.08 trillion as submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Leader of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila (APCLagos) in his lead debate on the budget proposal appealed to fellow House members to facilitate the speedy passage of the budget.
Gbajabiamila, who described the budget as epic and historical, added that it was an inclusive one that seeks to carry all Nigerians along, pointing out that with a N2.2 trillion deficit, it would be the first time that domestic borrowing estimated at N984 billion is higher than foreign borrowing of N900 billion.
He commended the President Buhari administration’s proposal to spend N500 billion for social intervention initiatives, adding that it would provide for the recruitment and training of 500,000 unemployed graduates.
“It is an epic budget because it is a budget based on the internationally acclaimed zero based budgeting system where every kobo has been newly justified by the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs)”, he said.
According to Gbajabiamila, when there is a downturn in the economy, “you rejig or stimulate the economy by pumping more money into it. This is what the proposals contained in this budget seek to do.
“Stimulate an otherwise wobbling economy by infusing and injecting N6.08 trillion into the economy, particularly its capital component of N1.85 trillion, representing 30 per cent of the budget”.
At the Senate, debate on the 2016 budget kicked off after the Senate Leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume gave the breakdown, while harping on its ambition to ensure the diversification of economy, creation of employment opportunities, poverty reduction and lowering of corruption.
First to speak was Senator Abaribe, (Abia) who took on the government for increasing the spending on Presidency from N580 million in the past budget to N1.7 billion.
He said the adjustments made by the Presidency on the budget had indicated that the amount of N7 billion had been removed from the money voted for car purchase by legislators while spreading it on other subheads.
Abaribe also expressed surprise that the Presidency had voted in the price of crude oil on the international market has been falling consistently and up to $27 per barrel as at Wednesday.
He, therefore, called for the withdrawal of the Budget which he said will run into a hitch at the implementation level.
In a swift response, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe) fired back at the PDP Senator, stressing that the challenges the economy of Nigeria was having have nothing to do with the falling price of crude oil but large-scale corruption allegedly perpetrated by the past government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Lawan, who at the start of the 8th Senate made a bid to be Senate President, described the 2016 budget as the best ever, given the genuine intention of the government to attend to the interest of the ordinary Nigerians.
He said Nigeria had been short-changed by the past PDP governments for 16 years, stressing that besides that of 2005, no budget all through the reign of PDP in power recorded up to 40 per cent level of implementation.
The PDP government, he said, carried corruption to the rooftop with a revelation that about 55 Nigerians who served in the past governments stole a huge amount of N1.34 trillion.
He lauded President Buhari on the 2016 budget, which according to him resolve to set aside 30 per cent of the votes for capital projects, while also voting the sum of N5,000 for the youths who are out of employment.
He noted that the budget has done well by de-emphasizing the influence of oil revenue while focusing attention most significantly on the need for diversification.
Speakers from both the APC and the PDP had canvassed different opinions on the budget while each of them apparently argued on party lines to either praise or castigate the budget accordingly.
Another PDP member, Philip Aduda in his contributions berated the 2016 budget on the basis that while it voted the sum of N37.7 billion for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), it failed to outline how it intends to offset the outstanding debt of N300 billion which FCT owed its contractors.
At a point, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu had to intervene with an appeal to his colleagues not to dwell on party sentiments while addressing pertinent issues in the budget.
According to him, debates on the budget should be made in the interest of the 30 other political parties who are equal stakeholders on national matters as well as in the interest of Nigerians who, according to him, have been looking forward to the “Change” promised by the President during his campaigns.
Senators, he said, should put aside their differences during debate of the budget.
The Deputy Senate President, however, expressed worries on the problem of revenue shortfall confronting the budget, as he suggested some ways out for the government.
He said the overall budget figure of N6.08 trillion may be difficult to sustain, and called for reduction of the budget cost by 30 per cent.
He advised also that Nigerians should begin to be creative in managing budgets, stating that rather than making attempt to borrow to fund deficits, the amount to be borrowed should be channeled towards energizing the economy.
The Chairman, Rules and Business Committee, Senator Babajide Omoworare (Osun) commended the 2016 budget which he said is tailored to baking a national cake and not to share it, given its intent to develop the national economy.
He lamented that the past government failed to make the hay while the sun was shining, given the privilege of good oil price it enjoyed in the years past.
Omoworare said the omission by the past government in effectively managing the economy was the reason Nigeria at the moment is facing economic challenges.
He, however, advised that the government should henceforth concentrate efforts on improving power generation, building more refineries while placing emphasis on development of revenue generating sectors like tourism, solid minerals, agriculture and industries.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa also lauded the budget on the emphasis it placed on social intervention with the government’s resolve to employ 500,000 teachers across the federation and the plan to pay N5,000 stipend to unemployed graduates totalling 1 million.
He advised the government to develop the power sector as well as vote sufficient funds to revive the rail transportation sector to generate more employment opportunities for Nigerians Senator Barnabas Gemade commended President Buhari for introducing zero budgeting which according to him has opened up an avenue for testing the performances of items on the budget to avoid voting monies for projects that had previously been listed for execution.
He also commended the President for tailoring the 2016 budget to ensure diversification of the economy, curbing corruption as well as ensuring job creation.