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N'Assembly queries huge vote for security

Published by Guardian on Fri, 16 Dec 2011

PIQUED by the N921.91 billion allocated for security in the 2012 budget, members of the National Assembly have vowed to rejig the fiscal blueprint.Rather than security taking the highest vote, the lawmakers want education, agriculture, electricity and employment generation to have the highest allocations.The Senate, which began work on the 2012 budget proposal yesterdayurged the Executive arm to give details of the N921.91 allocatedsecurity in the budget.The House of Representatives yesterday also disclosed its intention to rework the N4.749 trillion 2012 budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly on Tuesday by President Goodluck Jonathan.The Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba led the debate saying that the budget was structured to consolidate on the gains recorded from that of 2010. He submitted that the budget was anchored on some premises including micro-economic stability, structural reforms, governance and institutions and investment in priority sectors. He stressed that the budget was a stepping-stone aimed at reducing poverty. He concluded that the proposals in the budget were laudable and would enhancefiscal needs of the citizenry.The Deputy President of the Senate (DSP), Ike Ekweremadu noted that the faithful implementation of the budget would bring hope to Nigerians. He, however, expressed reservation about the timing andtransparency of the process.He expressed the need for budgets to be presented on time so that the legislature could conduct public hearings before passing them so that the yearnings of Nigerians could be aptly captured.Solomon Ganiyu (Lagos West) raised concern about thecapital component of the budget, sayingthat the allocation of N1.32 trillion as capital expenditure might not be able to provide the necessary result of stimulating the desired growth and providing employment. He cautioned the government against borrowing, stressing that the provision for debt relief was too high.While commending the adoption of the four-year budgeting process, Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East) noted that the provision for the agricultural sector was grossly inadequate. He said if the nation got the agricultural sector right, there would be heavy investment and there would be jobs for the teeming population and lees need for the heavy allocation to security.Olubunmi Adetumbi (Ekiti North) pointed out that the allocation for Security was more than that of Health four times,and that the ministries of Works and Power would need six years to have such a budget while the Ministry of Agriculture would need 12 years to have that kind of budget. He argued that the budget proposal from the executive did not reflect the situation in the country and urged the Senate to review it.The Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, said the major problem with the legislature in relation to appropriation was negligence of oversight functions, observing that no report of oversight function had been presented since he came to the Senate. He urged the Senate to ask for the details of theamount voted for security in the budget.Ningi also asked the chamber to raise the oil price benchmark from $70 per barrel to $75 per barrel based on the prevailing situation in the international oil market.Richard Borofice (Ondo North) decried the allocation to Science and Technology and called for ahigher vote.Suleiman Adokpe commended the attention given to agriculture in the proposal but called for more funding so that the country could effectively carry out mechanised farming which, according to him, would engage many hands and reduce unemployment substantially.The Senate adjourned till Tuesday when the debate is expected to be concluded.Briefing journalists on the official reaction of the House of Representatives to the budget proposal, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Zakari Mohammed, said power and education sectors ought to be accorded greater priority because of their relevance to the economy.'What the President presented was a mere proposal and we do not need to take it hook, line and sinker. We are definitely going to subject the proposal to very thorough legislative review and at the end of the day, come up with a more realistic budget particularly for sectors like Defence, Power, Education and Agriculture, ' Mohammed said.He also advised the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to exercise patience in reacting to the budget, pointing out that the proposal was not as bad as had been portrayed by the congress.The NLC had urged the National Assembly to throw away the entire budget proposal describing it as a disaster.The House also reiterated its opposition to the planned removal of subsidy on petroleum product, saying that nothing had changed in its earlier position.Besides, alarmed by the high cost of security spending in Kaduna State, the officials of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) have faulted the N1.2 billion monthly bill by the Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa's administration for the maintenance of security personnel deployed to keep peace in the state.The ACN officials reacted to the disclosure made at a peace and reconciliation meeting by the Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to the governor, Mr. Yohanna Allah-Magani who said that the insecurity in the state was taking an enormous amount of money from government coffers.
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