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Senate Continues 2016 Budget Debate

  • Political warfare tricklessenate 26 01 16

The 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday continued the second reading of the 2016 appropriation bill.

The consideration of the bill which began last week Wednesday continued with a political whimper as members of the upper chamber sheathed a lot of their verbal diatribe and rather chose to concentrate on the budget debate proper, a trend which was in stark contrast to the previous days of the budget consideration.

Resuming the budget debate, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Senator Oluremi Tinubu lamented the poor allocation to the Federal Ministry of women affairs in the budget and advocated a comprehensive funding for women empowerment programs. Noting that with the heightened insecurity in a number of places across the country, the onus fell on mothers and women to take care of displaced children and manage the conditions of the internally displaced persons and thus, the budget should be thoroughly looked into especially at the Committee levels because the 4 billion naira allocation (of which 3 billion is meant for capital projects) was grossly insufficient. Also noting that there were actually other department and agencies under the Ministry of women affairs thus necessitating more attention and funding. Senator Tinubu asked if women were only used as campaign tools during the previous elections.

Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Francis Alimikhena described the 2016 budget as Nigeria’s first ‘multiproduct’ budget in a very long time as opposed to a ‘monoproduct’ budget that was based majorly on crude oil revenue. Describing the challenges facing the Nigerian economy as a blessing in disguise (because it would cause the country to look inwards and diversify the economy). Senator Alimikhena noted that the critical sectors that the budget should pay more attention to were the road infrastructure sector, the power sector and the housing sector, asserting that implementing the ‘budget of change’ must start from considering the budget itself.

From the opposition end of the chamber, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Samuel Anyanwu declared that while change is a dynamic, the budget of change was a change in a negative direction as the appropriation from some vital sectors that would help in diversifying the economy (such as the agriculture and solid minerals) were no different from the 2015 budget. Announcing his efforts of taking the budget back home for consideration with his constituents, Senator Anyanwu stated that the 2016 budget also didn’t capture the alleviation of the challenges faced by South Eastern Nigerians through erosion and the plight of internally displaced persons. Warning against ‘playing to the gallery’ by some of his colleagues and seeing the 2016 as a party manifesto rather than a national affair, Senator Anyanwu equally advocated for a better allocation for the science and technology sector of the economy so that Nigerian manufacturing and export activities would greatly help to balance the negative foreign exchange imbalance being experienced by the naira.

Other contributors to the budget debate included Senators Aliyu Wammako, Kabiru Gaya, Emmanuel Bwacha, Theodore Orji, Jonah Jang, Jeremiah Useni, Clifford Ordia, Sabo Mohammed, Monsurat Summonu, Donald Taiye Alasaodura and Adamu Aliero among others.

It is recalled that President Muhammadu presented his budget of ‘change’; his first as president and commander-in- chief of the federation to the National Assembly which was dogged by controversy of swap necessitating his official request to make some changes. The senate and the House of Representatives had begun debate on the document preparatory to sending it to committees for further legislative input. The budget debate continues.

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