The Senate has began debate on the general principles of the 2020 Appropriation Bill of N10.33 trillion.
The lawmakers took turns debating the Bill at plenary on Wednesday.
Out of the N10.33 trillion in the 2020 Budget, N556.7 billion is for Statutory Transfer, while N2. 7 trillion is for Debt Service.
Contributing, Sen. Gabriel Suswam (PDP-Benue) said that the budget was very ambitious as it was intended to address infrastructural deficit.
He said that the economy had contracted to a level that the senate needed to critically address some very “germane and pregnant issues.”
“Along with the appropriation submitted by the President, is a financial bill that has five thematic areas.
“I am worried about the area that talks about revenue. I am worried with that because Value Added Tax (VAT) that had been moved from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent is one of the sources that we intend to raise revenue to finance critical areas of education and the health.
“In the same budget that we proposed 2.93 Gross Domestic Product Growth, we have also taken these policies, policies that will further contract the economy.
“This is because if we say that VAT will be moved from 5 per cent to 7.5 percent, the exemptions from the VAT are small because most of the aggregate economic activities are small business enterprises.”
He explained that most of the small business enterprises would be unable to address the issue of 7.5 per cent VAT.
“The 7.5 per cent VAT is on the high side and has exemption only on food items.”
On sectoral allocations, Suswam said that the money for the education and health was insufficient.
He said that to address infrastructure from holistic point of view, “outside of roads and power; education and health allocation should have also been enhanced.”
Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation Sen. Jibril Barau (APC-Kano) said that the sectoral allocation of N262 billion to Works and Housing, showed that government was serious about providing the necessary infrastructure to drive and sustain the economy.
He said that government was serious to actualise its long term objective of diversifying the economy.
Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (PDP-Enugu) said that he was pleased with the emphasis on road sector development and the marginal increase in Human Rights Commission’s allocation.
“These are indeed very commendable steps.
“The President has done his best in the presentation of the Appropriation Bill pursuant to Section 81 of the Constitution.
“Now the job is left for us to consider and make appropriate adjustments.
“We cannot blame the President or anybody else to fail in this responsibility of adjusting the proposal where necessary.
“Once the budget is passed, the rest is implementation.”
He said that in order to ensure full implementation of the budget, revenue generation must be emphasised and certainly not at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.
Ekweremadu said that there was the need to block all leakages.
“I am happy that the Federal Government is now clear on its position on IPPIS that government agencies must be captured under IPPIS.”
He further said that there was the need to show more interest in mineral sector development.
“We need to remove so much emphasis on oil and gas and see what we can do to take advantage of all the deposits of solid minerals in the country.”
Senate Minority Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe said the budget was a budget of taxation going by the proposed increase in VAT from 5 to 7. 5 per cent.
In his remarks, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan, mentioned that the debate on the budget would continue on Thursday.
In the same vein, the House of Representatives on Wednesday began the debate into the general principle of the 2020 Appropriation bill.
The ₦10.33 trillion budget was presented on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari before a joint session of the National Assembly.
The both chambers of the assembly had earlier assured of passage before the end of the year.
The members of the house, however, began debate in a motion moved by the Leader of the House, Rep. Ado Doguwa.
In his contribution, Rep. Mohammed Monguno (APC-Borno) commended the Federal Government for the allocation to the Agriculture sector and the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
The agriculture sector got ₦83 billion while the NEDC got ₦38 billion.
“Our population is growing at geometric progression, and our ability to put food on the table is growing at arithmetic progression and agriculture is the most important way of solving unemployment.
“I am happy that ₦83billion has been enmarked to agriculture, although we are far away from Maputo Declaration on food security,” he said.
Also speaking in support of the bill, Rep. Luke Onofiok (PDP-Akwa Ibom) commended Mr President for his commitment to ensure the timely implementation of the budget.
Onofiok also lauded the Federal Government for allocation to investments in sea ports in the Niger Delta.
“I will like to commend the President for bringing it in time, so that we can implemennt the budget starting January.
“We are now at the year 2020 we used to look at; we were promised infrastructure and sustained growth in 2020, now we are moving to the year 2020.
“Of importance is the increase in recurrent expenditure, which the president explained is to take care of minimum wage, and funding of salaries of security personnel,” he said.
The lawmaker, however, expressed concern that the amount allocated to Debt Service was more than what was allocated to Capital Expenditure.
The planned Debt Service for 2020 was put at ₦2.45 trillion while Capital Expenditure was ₦2.14 trillion.
Also, Rep. Salam Bamidele (PDP-Osun) urged the house to look at the possibility of increasing the allocation to Social Investment from ₦30 billion to “at least ₦100 billion”.
Furthermore, Rep. Rotimi Agunsoye (APC-Lagos) urged the National Population Census (NPC) to conduct a new census, to ensure proper planning.
“I will like to talk on population census, if we are planning, we must know the population of the actual Nigerians.
“The last census was in 2006, and we are 2019, we have been estimating our population; it is important that we know the population, so that we can know our needs,” he said.
Agunsoye also expressed concern on the porous nature of the country’s borders.
The house, however, suspended the budget debate till Thursday, Oct. 10. (NAN)