Immediately after presentation of N16.39trillion 2022 budget proposals by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly last week, federal lawmakers across both chambers, bared their minds on projections and proposals made. TAIYE ODEWALE reports
Key submissions made by the President
President Buhari had in the presentation of the N16.39trillion budget reeled out the parameters, assumptions, projections and proposals upon which it is based on.
Some, according to him, are oil price benchmark of 57 US dollars per barrel; oil production estimate at 1.88 million barrels (inclusive of condensates of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels per day); exchange rate at N410.15 per US dollar; and projected GDP growth rate at 4.2 percent and 13 percent inflation rate.
Others are total federally-collectible revenue N17.70 trillion naira, total federally distributable revenue estimated at N12.72 trillion, projected Oil revenue of N3.16 trillion, Non-oil taxes estimated at N2.13 trillion naira and FGN Independent revenues projected at 1.82 trillion naira.
Buhari added that out of the total expenditure of N16.39 trillion naira proposed for the Federal Government in 2022, N768.28 is for statutory transfers of 768.28 billion naira; N6.83 trillion is for Non-debt Recurrent Costs; and N4.11trillion for personnel costs.
Others are N577.0 billion for pensions, gratuities and retirees’ benefits; N792.39 for overheads; N5.35 trillion for capital expenditure, including capital component of statutory transfers; N3.61 trillion for debt service; and N292.71 billion for sinking fund to retire certain maturing bonds.
By way of emphasis, he said the N6.26 trillion deficit in the proposed budget though represents 3.39 percent of estimated GDP, which is slightly above the 3 percent threshold set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 but not too injurious to the economy.
“We plan to finance the deficit mainly by new borrowings totalling N5.01 trillion, N90.73 billion from privatization proceeds and N1.16 trillion drawdowns on loans secured for specific development projects.
“Some have expressed concern over our resort to borrowing to finance our fiscal gaps. They are right to be concerned. However, we believe that the debt level of the Federal Government is still within sustainable limits. Borrowings are to specific strategic projects and can be verified publicly”, he said.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila’s remarks
In line with traditions, while before the presentation of the budget estimates, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan made a remark through a written speech, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, made his own remarks immediately after the presentation.
Lawan in his remarks said: “Generating and collecting revenues have remained major challenges in our quest for development and in particular, financing yearly budgets.
“The recent efforts by the National Assembly as well as the Executive to challenge the revenue generating agencies, is a step in the right direction.
“Equally important is the recent position taken by the legislature and the executive to insist on zero allocation for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that fail to remit/upload their revenues for the 2022 appropriation.
“Mr President, the need to enhance revenue generation and collection cannot be overemphasized because the level of budget deficit is high, and both the legislature and the executive should work to reduce this deficit through the availability of more revenues.
“Government should also explore other sources of funding its projects in order to reduce borrowings.”
Gbajabiamila in his own remarks said: “The National Assembly will ensure that this budget proposal is strictly scrutinised.
“As legislators and leaders in government, we have a continued obligation to ensure that in considering this appropriation bill, we make all deliberate efforts to ensure that we continue to make critical investments in education and healthcare, public infrastructure and national security.
“Through these investments, we can hope to build an economy that provides enough well-paying jobs for our young population so that we can, in our lifetime, end endemic poverty in our country and eradicate the social ills that derive therefrom”.
Other lawmakers’ comments
Immediately after the joint session and departure of President Muhammadu Buhari from the National Assembly, lawmakers across both chambers at different interviews expressed their views on the budget proposals.
While some described it as budget of hope and development, anchored on economic growth and sustainability, others described it as annual ritual which at the end of the day, will make little or no impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
First to comment positively, was Chairman, Senate Commitee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West) who said the budget as aptly put by the President, is geared towards economic growth and sustainability.
His words: “The 2022 budget as presented by the President is workable and achievable based on laid down parameters, assumptions, projections and proposals.
“Many may want to be commenting on the huge deficit in the proposal, but as explained and assured by the President, there is nothing to worry about, after all, massive projects being executed across the country with borrowed monies are there for Nigerians to see .
“My happiness is that, under this government, loans are not being taken for projects and diverted into consumables or embezzled outrightly. Values for such loans or even monies generated within and spent, are glaring for all to see.
“The country needs infrastructure, diversification of the economy, security and stability, which were all captured by projected provisions in the budget”, he said.
For Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), being the last budget that will have full implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, it should be done in a way that it will end up to be called ‘Budget of Legacy’.
“To achieve this, government needs to be more aggressive, proactive and innovative on internally generated revenues for full implementation of the budget projections and proposals.
“Though the President gave assurance that the huge deficit (N6.62trillion) with attendant borrowing of N5.01trillion, is still within the GDP sustainable ratio but I still want the government to look inward in terms of revenue generation for budget financing and by extension, in subsequent years, translate into decrease in deficit budgeting and borrowings for implementation”, he said.
Critics of Buhari proposal
The remarks, however, assumed very critical dimension when the views of Hon Mohammed Gudaji Kazaure from Jigawa state were sought.
Hon Kazaure who represents the people of Kazaure/Roni/ Gwiwa/Yankwashi federal Constituency in the House of Representatives said: “The N16.39trillion 2022 budget as far as I am concerned and based on outcomes of previous ones over the years, is for the elites and not the masses who constitute the largest percentage of the country’s population.
“President Buhari, like his predecessors, may in their own intensions, want provisions of such budgetary proposals, beneficial to all, but implementations of such budgets over the years clearly show that the elite and not the masses are largely the beneficiaries.
“This is so singularly because of malignant or systemic corruption in the public or civil service used as machinery for implementation of the budgets”.
The country, he added, supposed not to have any business with borrowings whether external or internal for budget financing if leakages within the system are blocked and corruption curbed very efficiently and effectively by relevant agencies.
“In stopping the yearly financial ritual from being largely pocketed by the elites in particular, the civil or public servants , the war on corruption should be aggressively fought proactively and not just by mouthing or media trials” he stressed.
Similar comments in support or against the projections and proposals made in the N16.39trillion 2022 budget by federal lawmakers, will continue next week when the general principles of the document will be subjected to debates at both Chambers before passage for second reading and legislative considerations at Commitee levels.