…Dogara resists attempt to shelve debate again

The House of Representatives would meet with the Finance, Budget and National Ministers as well as the Director General (DG) of the National Budget Office over fundamental errors in figures in the 2019 Appropriation Bill.

This is as Speaker Yakubu Dogara resisted attempt to shelve the debate once again after Rita Orji (PDP, Lagos) raised a point of order that the number of lawmakers on the floor did not meet the required number for a quorum for plenary.

The Speaker said since she has no knowledge of the number of lawmakers on the register, it will be impossible for her to know if the floor meets the quorum requirement, adding that the physical presence of members on the floor is not the deciding factor.

The debate of the bill was twice put off due to the same reason of errors in figures and need for members to have enough time to go through it for informed constitutions to the debate.

However, when the debate commenced, Chika Adamu (APC, Niger) noted that proposed allocations to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Budget Office and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation under main statutory components did not correspond with the total summary in the document.

As a result, he requested if contributions to the debate could continue or be restricted to the general principles of the bill.

In his contribution, Ahman Pategi (PDP, Kwara) explained that the difference in figures could be down to typographical error because all allocations figures were correct except in the summary section.

He suggested that the leadership of appropriate Committee of the House should meet with the leadership of the affected agencies to sort it out.

He also noted that the figures could be corrected when the bill gets to the Committee stage where thorough scrutiny of the document would be done.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara went into discussion with the Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun and others after which he announced that the debate would continue.

He said the irreconcilable figures in the document meant contributions would be restricted to the general principles while the leader of the Appropriation and Finance Committee would meet the Finance and Budget and Planning Ministries and the Budget Office.

He said the outcome of the meeting, with the correct figures, would be provided before the conclusion of debate on the 2019 Appropriation Bill on Thursday.

Earlier, in his contribution, Deputy Speaker Lasun said it has become extremely important for Nigerians to realize the economic status of the country in comparison to other economies.

He said the size of the 2019 budget in actual sense, compared to the population does not portray the country as rich with the N8.83 trillion budget being just about $10b.

According to him, when spread around the population, what is spent by the government on an individual is disheartening and as such it has become necessary for the government and the populace to explore other sustainable alternatives to fund the economy.

The Deputy Speaker also noted that the dwindling contribution of oil revenue to the 2019 budget going down to about 67 percent, the government and the populace must be forced to explore other means of funding and sustaining the economy.

Lasun, who appealed for a speedy passage of the Bill also drew attention to poor implementation of budgets, which he said should be critically looked into, as well as a need to decide the type of budgeting system the country should adopt.

He said policy somersault once one is adopted should be avoided, “Because we have seen how the various models we adopted in the past have not really worked.

“It time for us to think out of the box. Maybe if we had stuck to one, appreciable economic progress would have been recorded over the years. We also have to look at whether the size of our budget can sustain a meaningful development.

“I will, however, appeal to the Executive to try as much as possible to implement this budget,” he added.

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