APC and PDP lawmakers fight over budget

Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), Senate Minority Leader, said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2020 budget is not sustainable.

He made the statement during the Appropriation Bill’s deliberations on Wednesday.

The President announced N10,33 trillion for next year’s budget for the federal government on Tuesday.

One of the budget’s expectations is that Nigeria will use almost a quarter of the budget (N2.5 trillion) to repay local and international debts owed by the government

The budget was also prepared on the assumption of $57 per barrel for 2.18 million barrels per day of crude oil production.

Mr Buhari has submitted the Finance Bill for consideration and passage into law to the National Assembly.

The Bill aims to raise the rate of Valued-Added Tax from 5% to 7.5%.

The lawmakers started discussing the Appropriation Bill and it was the Minority Leader’s turn to speak.

Mr Abaribe condemned, among other items, the names given to the Bill, the increase in VAT and the increase in crude oil production.

He also defined the budget as a taxation budget.

“Very many things were put and jumbled together: budget of fiscal consolidation, investing in critical infrastructure…and so forth. In other words, putting everything together like that reminds us of what Shakespeare said: a tale full of sound and fury signifies nothing,” he began.

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At this point, the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, interrupted him, reminding him that it was not in a class of literature.

“I want to suggest a name to those who wrote this speech for the president that this is nothing but a budget of taxation,” he continued.

Again, Mr Lawan interrupted him. “I just want to appeal to you to talk to what was read in the budget speech.”

Mr Abaribe, however, re-emphasised the proposed name for the bill.

“This is a budget that is based on taxation. Its is based on 7.5 per cent increase in VAT, based on several other increases.

“How would you talk about job creation when you do not invest in what will create jobs? Debt servicing as a component is higher than capital expenditure. Two trillion for capital expenditure, 2.4trn for debt servicing.

“The projected growth that they put in the budget was 1.9 per cent, less than the population growth of 2.6 per cent. So, if we look at it globally, we are still struggling. We may have to take over and direct the economic policy of this government. having seen that they have not done anything and they have failed,” he said.

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Mr Abaribe also said the nation’s projection for the cost of oil may be off the mark.

“I know that our people were happy when there seem to be a little problem in the Middle East with Iran which will lead to a spike in the oil price. But that seen to have gone down, which means that our projection for the cost of oil may also be off the mark.

“Second one is our projection for the production level daily. Last year, the average production level was 1.8 million barrel per day. Why don’t we just keep it there? Why must we go up to 2.1 only to be disappointed at the end of the day?,” he said.

The lawmaker then pleaded with his colleagues to look at facts before accepting the bill which he said is not sustainable.

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“I know that you have promised the executive that we are going to work very well with the executive to produce the budget but I plead with my colleagues to look at the facts. You cannot run away from facts.

“The facts say this is not a sustainable budget. The facts say that if we need to change, we must be able to look at the critical fundamentals of this budget speech and make adjustments as due,” he said.

On his part, Mr Lawan said Mr Abaribe’s presentation was laced with inaccurate information.
“That brilliant presentation was laced with inaccurate statistical information but all the same, you are entitled to your opinion.”

Nigerian and political parties responded with the presentation of the 2020 budget. While the All Progressive Congress said the budget was meant to consolidate the administration’s gains, the People’s Democratic Party said the budget would further impoverish Nigerians.

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