Some members of the Senate who contributed to the debate on the 2016 budget in the red chamber on Wednesday expressed doubt over the ability of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to implement the fiscal document based on the current economic realities.
Some of the senators in their contributions maintained that unless there was a drastic downward review of the entire budget size, the oil benchmark and the exchange rate, the Federal Government might end up embarking on an exercise in futility.
Though some senators cautioned the Buhari-led administration against borrowing to fund the budget because the fiscal document did not specify any pragmatic means of servicing the loans, others noted that it was obvious that the Federal Government would have to increase its request for foreign loans.
This, they said, was because of the decline in oil revenue which they put at $28 per barrel against the $38 upon which the budget benchmark was predicated.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, asked the executive to consider the downward review of the budget by about 30 per cent in order to make it realistic and implementable.
He said, “I am not an economist but I know that if my income is N100,000 and suddenly I start earning N30,000 and I tell my children that we will now be spending N120,000, they will start wondering where I will get the money.
“The problem we have is that over the years we have seen prosperity and we have adjusted to it and now we are seeing a downward trend in our revenue, but we still don’t seem to be addressing this issue.
“We have always increased the budget of this country from between 10 and 20 per cent, I just want to appeal that for the first time we should be able to reduce that budget by the same 20 to 30 per cent in order for us to be realistic otherwise it will not be implementable.”
Ekweremadu explained that instead of resorting to borrowing during the great recession in America, the US government had to inflate the economy by embarking on more projects.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, in his contribution, noted that the 2016 budget was incapable of addressing the socio-economic challenges confronting the nation.
He explained that a budget meant to cushion the effects of the hard times being experienced by Nigerians would not vote billions of naira to execute “frivolous projects” in the Presidential Villa as currently contained in the fiscal document.
Obviously uncomfortable with the hard knocks on the budget by his colleagues, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Ahmad Lawan, blamed the opposition Peoples Democratic Party for the economic crisis being experienced in the nation.
He argued that the situation would not appear hopeless if the managers of the nation’s economy in the last 16 years had judiciously spent the volume of funds which accrued to it on the critical sectors that could bring succour to Nigerians.
He said, “We have to fund part of this budget by borrowing because in the previous administration a huge chunk of our common patrimony our resources was stolen. I believe that the challenge of this economy is not the current prices of oil in the world market.
“The challenge is and has been always been corruption. For example, 55 privileged Nigerians in the last 16 years stole N1.34tn. This is the 17th budget I am debating in the National Assembly with the exception of 2005 appropriation.
“There was never an implementation of more than 40 per cent. Nigerians was shortchanged for 16 years. The proposal before us is the first in the last 17 years that an allocation of 30 per cent of the appropriation is given to capital.
“Also, for the first time in a genuine, sincere, honest and transparent manner, the executive arm of government has deemed it necessary to give ordinary Nigerians something, some succour, some hope and genuine one for that matter.”