The Senate yesterday commenced the general debate on the 2021 N13.08 trillion Appropriation Bill with Senators holding divergent views over the viability of the budget proposals.
While most of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators who contributed to the debate faulted the budgetary estimates, their colleagues in the All Progressives Congress (APC) were of the opinion that the budgetary proposals can still bring about required recoveries in various sectors of the nation’s economy as anticipated by President Muhammadu Buhari in the budget of “Recovery and Resilience”.
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, tore the budget estimates into shreds describing it as unrealistic and unimplementable.
He said the budget was dead on arrival as it is nothing but old news.
“This budget is nothing but what Fela called old news everytime, the same old news, nothing new”.
According to him, “The 2021 Appropriation Bill proposes to spend N13.082 trillion, with expected revenue of N7.886 trillion and a deficit of N5.196 trillion. As with the other budgets over the last few years, it looks impractical and unimplementable”.
“The major challenge, as with previous budgets, is with revenue and an overly optimistic revenue target. The 2021 budget hopes that the federal government will be able to generate almost N8trillion. If history is anything to go by, this projection looks impossible.
“ In 2016, Nigeria had an approved budget with a revenue of N3.855 trillion. By the end of the year, the total retained revenue was only N2.621 trillion.
“ This performance was a 32 per cent shortfall according to the budget implementation reports. In 2017, instead of trying to readjust to the reality of a difficult revenue situation, Government of Nigeria repeated the same overly optimistic exercise. The approved budget had a revenue of N5 trillion while actual revenue that year was only N2.37 trillion.
“This performance was a whopping 53 per cent shortfall. In 2018, Federal Government of Nigeria repeated the same thing by submitted a budget that expected revenue to jump from N2.37 trillion to N7.165 trillion. By the end of the year, actual revenue was only N3.48 trillion; a 51 percent shortfall. The story was the same in 2019 and 2020. In 2019 the revenue shortfall was 41 percent and so far in 2020 the shortfall is 38 percent.
“Here we are in 2021 and the submitted budget expects revenue to be N7.886 trillion. Based on the half year numbers, Nigeria would be lucky to realise N3.3 trillion in revenue in 2020 by the end of the year. Yet the Executive expects revenue to increase by over 200 percent in 2021.
“When the Executive announces a N13 trillion budget, the ministries and agencies take it as a signal that the largess can continue. A casual look at the Appropriation Bill contains items like SUVs for chief executives and fancy office buildings for agencies who really do not need them.
Earlier in his lead debate, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, who veered off the template of the debate described those clamouring for restructuring of the country as people seeking for dismemberment of the country before addressing the budgetary proposals and projections.
Commenting on the budget, the Senate Leader said:
“It is also important to note that a budget deficit of this size requiring more indebtedness is not healthy for the long-term development of the country, but this must be tolerated now because of the challenges of the times”.
Opposition PDP senators like Ike Ekweremadu, Gabriel Suswam, Oker Jev, made their presentations against workability of the budget.
Ekweremadu tackled the Senate Leader over his comment that proponents of restructuring are seeking for dismemberment of Nigeria.
He said the leader got it wrong and withdrew the statement on his behalf.
On the budget, Ekweremadu posited that government external borrowing needs to be carefully revisited “especially loans being obtained from places like China because I know China will not forgive you if you don’t pay back the loans you are taking to execute infrastructures across the country “.
Some APC Senators like Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi , Orji Uzor Kalu, Uba Sani , Adamu Aliero, Ibikunle Amosun, expressed hope in the workability of the budgetary proposals.
Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi described Abaribe’s position on the budget as hilarious presentation, saying Nigeria would have been worse for if President Buhari’s administration did not take over in 2015.