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Senate Continues Budget Debate

…exchange of inter party missiles lingers; attention drawn to new insurgent strategy in Taraba

The second day of the debate by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the 2016 appropriation bill resumed at the plenary budge debate continuessession on Thursday and very much followed the pattern and mood of the chamber 24 hours earlier, as Senators from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were generally in support of the budget while those from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were generally critical of it.

The fiery inter party exchanges reached its zenith at one point as Senate Leader, Ali Ndume (APC), standing on a point of order gestured at the vocally aggressive members of the PDP across the chamber aisle and declared, ‘You are the minority, not the opposition.’

There were equally some brilliant propositions as well as some controversial remarks made over the 2016 budget which continues to be primarily flavoured with partisanship.

Beginning the debate for the day, Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North) noted that the previous government had been enmeshed in the glamour of governance rather than its responsibility. Praising the budget as one that address the problem of youth unemployment and allocating more funds for capital expenditure, he advocated further deviation from a crude oil based budget, quoting the famous Saudi Sheik Zaki Yamani by saying, ‘The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone and the Oil Age will end long before oil runs out.’ He also blamed the Boko Haram menace as a situation that is ‘borne out of social exclusivity.’

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) while also praising the budget as one that sought to block financial leakages described many government agencies of government as ‘ATMs’ (Automated Teller Machines) of previous governments (obviously suggesting that Government funds were being inappropriately discharged through that avenue).

Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South) lamented that the 2016 bugdet deficit and debt servicing would amount to the Nigerian Government borrowing 500 million Naira every day throughout the year without a clear method of seeking to repay debtors. Proclaiming that the budget gave out resources with one hand and collected it back from Nigerians with two hands, she blasted the increased capital expenditure against the backdrop of reduced government revenue and called for a review of the budget by seasoned economists and professionals, stating that the Nigerian people were in dire need of palliatives.

Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) praised President Buhari by describing the 2016 appropriation bill as ‘a holy budget’ which has converted money that was intended for ‘celestial, spiritual and diabolical uses’ into money that would be used to purchase school uniforms and feed school children. Calling for a diversification of Nigeria’s economy and the revival of Nigeria’s industries, Senator Melaye remarked that Nigeria’s foremost universities in the Northern, Western and Eastern parts of the country (Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, University of Ibadan and University of Nigeria Nsukka) were built before the advent of crude oil revenues by proceeds from groundnut pyramids, cocoa farms and rubber and coal mines respectively, while the country’s education sector is in shambles despite the oil windfall. Senator Melaye also blamed the former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party for Nigeria’s foreign reserve woes citing the case of the ongoing 2.1 billion dollar probe of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and while alleging that the PDP stole 15% of Nigeria’s foreign reserve.

Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC Osun Central) perhaps made the most sensitive remarks by calling on the government to tax wife battery, alcoholism and other related vices which he termed ‘sin behaviour.’ Drawing inspiration from the Senate of the United States of America, Senator Adeyeye criticised the Nigerian legislative process of hurriedly considering an executive budget, noting that the US Legislature spends 8 months considering the appropriation bill with assistance from independent bodies. Advocating for the ‘sanctity of data’ he noted that 54% of the US 3.8 trillion dollar budget came from taxes. He also clamoured for the reduction of Government agencies and the return to ‘operation low profile’ (such as the use of ordinary cars by Nigerian government officials), while also reminding Nigerians that the National Assembly budget of 115 billion Naira was not for the Senators and members of the House of Representatives to share but for its operational cost such as is obtained in any Federal ministry.

Senator Binta Masi (APC, Adamawa North), called for a general support of the budget irrespective of party lines and noted that corruption has actually been the cancer that has been eating up Nigeria. She also asked the Government to look into internal borrowingin its debt service such as from the National Pension Commission (Pencomm) which has as much as 6 trillion Naira in its coffers.

Other contributors to the day’s debate included Senators Bassey Akpan, Sam Egwu, Danjuma Goje, Muhamad Ubali Shitu among others.

Meanwhile, the attention of the Senate was yesterday drawn to Boko Haram insurgents who disguise as herdsmen and attack innocent people in Bali and Gassol Local Government Areas of Taraba State. This was revealed by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, standing on a point of order who also revealed that the insurgents were being transported to Taraba State in trailers, probably from Sambisa forest in Borno State and that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Emergency management Agency (NEMA) and other relief agencies were complaining of internally displaced people who had been abandoned to security challenges.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted the observation and called drew the attention of security agencies to the issue.

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The Senate | Federal Republic of Nigeria | National Assembly Complex | Three Arms Zone, PMB 141, Abuja | Nigeria