•Technocrats out to embarrass govt –Saraki
From Fred Itua, Abuja, with agency report
Consideration of the 2018 budget has suffered a setback at the Senate.
Lawmakers failed to pass the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), yesterday.
The MTEF/FSP is a precursor to the passage of the2018 Appropriation Bill.
Senate suspended consideration of a report of its joint committee on Finance, Appropriations and National Planning and Economic Affairs due to the absence of the chairman, John Enoh.
He was expected to present the report, yesterday.
On Wednesday, Senate stood down consideration of the documents due to lack of quorum.
President Muhammadu Buhari sent the 2018-2020 MTEF and FSP to the Senate on October 19.
The document was sent to the joint committee to work on and report back to the full house. But Senate suspended consideration, due to Enoh’s absence because he is at the ongoing Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ meeting, convened to determine the cap oil output from Nigeria.
Announcing Enoh’s absence, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan asked senators to be patient, in order to take an informed decision on the passage of the documents.
“We need to know what the production quota for Nigeria will be so that we’ll take a very informed and enlightened decision on the daily production for our crude. I believe this is a strong and enough ground for us to stand down the consideration of this report until next Tuesday.”
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at plenary, also emphasised the need to wait for the outcome of the meeting before going ahead with the passage of MTEF/FSP.
The lawmakers unanimously adopted the prayer.
Also, Senators drawn from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have expressed worries over Nigeria’s rising debt profile.
Senator Solomon Adeola, tasked the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts to look critically and determine the country’s factual debt profile while senator Rabiu Kwankwaso said Nigeria must be careful not to fall into unnecessary debt trap, again.
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki has said he “sometimes wonders” if technocrats want to embarrass the Federal Government.
He said this in reaction to the assumptions the N8.6 trillion 2018 budget is predicated on. Citing an example, the senate president wondered why the budget would be predicated on 2.3 million barrels per day when the country has only been able to record 1.9 million barrels per day in 2017.
“If you look at the past two months, where oil price has been as high as $60, reports from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee is that they have not been able to put any money in the Excess Crude Account.
“The only reason is that it must be that oil production is much less than what we are budgeting for. I think this is an area we need to look at seriously, it must be that the level of theft and vandalism still going on is very high and it is not being properly reported.
“Secondly, my concern, and I’m happy that we are debating it, is the independent revenue. If we all look at our figures, the budget was N180 something billion but, in nine months, we only did N185 billion, meanwhile, we are budgeting N800 and something for 2018. How realistic is that? Sometimes, I wonder if technocrats want to embarrass government and try to do some things knowing it can’t work.”
In a related development, the senate president also hinted that funding challenges inhibiting operation of security agencies would be addressed in the 2018 budget. The senate president said this when he inaugurated the senator Ahmad Lawan-led Ad hoc committee charged with the responsibility of reviewing the current security infrastructure of the country; in the face of rising security breaches.
Saraki said recent attacks in Adamawa and Zamfara states, where dozens of lives and property were lost, are unacceptable.
The committee, Saraki said, should work to provide answers to critical questions and issues which include the clamour for state police, technology, funding, collaboration among security agencies, role of traditional and community leaders, among others. The committee will work in consultation with the various heads of security agencies in the country.