Nigerian Senators slammed Muhammadu Buhari’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) submitted by the President..
The documents which form the basis for the planning of the 2017 budget, were referred to the Senate Committees on Finance, Appropriations and National Planning for further legislative job and subsequent presentation to the Senate.
During the debate on the documents, majority of the Senators who spoke, declared the documents as fraudulent, unrealistic, not sincere, not transparent, even as they said that the documents lack credible and called for serious rejigging if they must meet the present economic reality.
President Buhari appearing before the National Assembly was disclosed yesterday by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio (PDP Akwa Ibom North West), while making contributions to debate on projected assumptions made by the presidency in the 2017-2019 MTEF. The Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, gave this indication when he was seconding the motion for the Senate to consider and approve the 2017, 2018 and 2019 MTEF and FSP, which was presented before the Senate.
Akpabio said, “Yesterday, you made reference to the fact that the President may be coming to the chambers to submit and read the 2017 budget on 1st of December (Next week Thursday).
“If that is the case and we send this (MTEF) back for reworking by the presidency, it means that we will not be able to meet that deadline. But if we send it to the committee level, they may come up with something within the next three days that will be much, much realistic ahead of the budget presentation itself”.
Akpabio had before making the disclosure, pleaded with the Senate not to throw out the MTEF document based on its unrealistic projections as raised by majority of the Senators, advising that it should be committed to relevant committees of the Senate based on the submissions that would be made by the various agencies that may be invited by the committee and come up with realistic indices for the budget estimates, adding, “We can see that we don’t have a perfect document in our hands but of course we are looking at assumptions and assumptions may not necessarily be correct. I want to suggest that we send it to the committee.
“Of course, the committees will invite the relevant agencies and ministries of government. And they will come up with a more realistic MTEF/FSP. So, my appeal will be that the committee members should take into cognisance all the submissions and observations made today; so that we can come up with a more realistic MTEF and FSP”.
While reminding them that the National Assembly will not be able to receive the 2017 budget estimates from President Mohammadu Buhari on Thursday except the Senate passed the FSP and MTEF for 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Minority Leader said if the senators agree that the document be referred to the committees for consideration, within three days, they will have been done with it, to enable the Senate pass the Framework.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who ruled on the debate which lasted for more than two hours, however reminded his colleagues that the assumptions in the documents were done based on the best capacity of the executive arm.
Saraki said, “There is no doubt about the fact that these projections are not realistic. There is no doubt that the exchange rate is not realistic. The Central Bank of Nigeria has said it is using N305 (to a dollar). There is no doubt as well that throughout this year, we did not achieve 2.2 million barrels per day; even in time of peace (in the oil rich Niger Delta), we have not achieved 2.5mbpd. How realistic is 2.2mbpd next year? The oil price as well looks conservative.
“Like some of our distinguished colleagues said, our responsibility is to work on it and use our capacity to do the right thing. We have our Committees on Appropriation and Finance that should not just take anything from the executive, sign it and return it (verbatim). If it means that we have to rehash it, look at it again, turn it around and do what is right, then, that it our responsibility. “I think that it just the way to go rather than to just take a document from the executive and return the same to it. It is clear from what was submitted (by the lawmakers) today that it will not work like that this time around.”
The Senate President then asked the Committees on Finance and Appropriation to take note of all said by the senators on the MTEF and FSP during the plenary while preparing their report on the MTEF and FSP, adding that the committees to organise a debate on the performance of the 2016 budget “before we even take the report of the committees on the MTEF; that must be a precondition.”
During the general debate on the MTEF document, Senators like Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), Bayero Nafada (APC Gombe North), Adeola Olamilekan (APC Lagos West), Mohammed Hassan (PDP Yobe South), Emmanuel Paulker (PDP Bayelsa Central) , Abiodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South); Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East; Joshua Lidani, PDP, Gombe South; Ibrahim Gobir, Sokoto East etc, all picked holes at the assumptions made in the document and argued against it, even as some of them asks that the document be sent back to the Presidency.]