2018 budget: Saraki, Dogara talk tough

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Dr. Bukola Saraki and Dogara
Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara
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2018 budget: Saraki, Dogara talk tough

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara have warned against selective implementation of the 2018 budget as well as reckless borrowings by the Presidency.

Dr. Bukola Saraki and Dogara
Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara

In his opening remarks, during the joint session of the National Assembly when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2018 Appropriation Bill, Saraki minced no words when he declared:  “We must ensure that our borrowing is targeted at productive projects that will stimulate the economy. We must ensure real value for money in projects funded by borrowing, and make doubly sure that the projects are not overpriced.”

Dogara, on his part, said non-implementation of the budget was the same crime as corruption, while warning that the roll over of the 2017 budget would be predicated on how far the executive implemented capital components of the Act before end of the year.

The Senate President, while speaking on job creation, said although the country had officially exited recession, Nigerians were yet to feel the impact.

“People are seeking to get back to work but cannot find jobs. Entrepreneurs want to restart their businesses but are finding it difficult to access the needed capital. As for our farmers, the last thing they want is for produce to go to waste because people cannot afford to buy. Looking around today, we see that many of our undergraduates are apprehensive about their graduation day and our National Youth Corps members are not looking forward to the end of the service year, for fear of being tagged ‘unemployed.’

“While I commend your current efforts at tackling unemployment, especially among the youths, through federal youth programmes such as YouWin, N-Power, and YES-Programme, deliberate steps must be taken to make the 2018 budget a job oriented one. We must move beyond budgetary provisions without adequate funding available for the execution of projects- and ensure that selection of contractors as well as the release of funds, are transparent. We must, therefore, make project completion a top priority, especially those projects that directly impact the lives of our people,” he said.

In his remarks, Dogara said as legislators, what agitated them was the prospects of totally abandoning the 2017 budget and the dire consequences of doing so.

“The questions that must be answered include whether we have effectively enforced 2017 fiscal targets and whether managers have complied with the budget as authorised by the legislature. Our experience with the implementation of the 2016 budget amply demonstrates that obeying our appropriation laws maximises the release of our potentials while violating the appropriation laws caps the release of our national potentials.

“This means that we have to redouble our efforts in implementing the 2017 budget, if we must retire it in January or at the very least roll over most of the projects in 2017 budget to 2018. No need to remind us that fiscal indiscipline is as grievous a problem as corruption, which this government is busy eliminating.

“Let me place it on record that the 2018 budget preparations suffer from inadequate consultations between the MDAs and various over-sighting committees of the National Assembly. Consequently, one can only hope and pray that it does not lead to delay in consideration and passage of the Budget.”

Some lawmakers who reacted to the budget presentation said they were not satisfied with its contents. They said there was no difference between the 2017 budget and the 2018 proposal.

Senator Foster Ogola from Bayelsa State said he was disappointed with the presentation. He lamented the exclusion of the Niger Delta region, while accusing the administration of deliberately refusing to make special provisions for oil producing states, which are the economic backbones of the country.

Said he: “As a senator, I am grieving that promises to treat the Niger Delta region is being treated with levity. The same region that brings the money does not get anything. Year in, year out, they make promises, but they do not do anything. The president said he would clean up Ogoniland. What is the percentage of Ogoniland in the Niger Delta region? Actions like these are responsible for the agitations in the Niger Delta region. You do not milk a people to a dry point and tell them to be patient.”

In a related development, members of the House of Representatives failed to make true their threats to scuttle the presentation.

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