Senators yesterday picked holes in the 2017 Appropriation Bill submitted to both chambers of the National Assembly for consideration and approval.
Majority of the senators, who made their submissions at the floor of the Senate, pointed out that the proposed appropriation bill lacked details and also complained of the poor performance of the 2016 budget by the executive.
Former Senate leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, faulted the 2017 Appropriation Bill, describing it as lacking relevant details.
Ndume, who represents Borno South in the upper chamber, said the senators were not privy to the details of the 2017 budget, describing the situation as worrisome and an obstacle to government’s plan to execute developmental projects in the country.
The former Senate leader, who had earlier raised Order 15 Standing Rules of the Senate to protest the delay by the presiding officer, the Senate president, in recognising him to speak, picked holes in the general budget performance, especially as it concerns the humanitarian crisis in the North East.
The lawmaker had urged the Senate Committee on Appropriation to increase the budgetary allocation to crisis in the North East from N42 billion to N100 billion in order to address the grave humanitarian challenges in the area.
Ndume said: “The budget we have been passing in the past years lacked one important ingredient, which is details. Some of us are ignorant and innocent. The 2017 budget has no details. That is why we continue to have abandoned projects in the country. We, as senators, don’t have the details of the budget.
“For the humanitarian crisis in the North East, my colleagues will not be tired to hear my voice. I urge the appropriation committee to allocate a reasonable sum to the humanitarian crisis in the North East from N45 billion to N100 billion.”
On his part, Senator Dino Melaye urged the federal government to develop its own agenda, like previous governments.
He cited the ‘Green Revolution’ of President Shehu Shagari, General Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘Operation Feed the Nation’, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point Agenda and President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda as examples, adding that such agenda should be in tandem with the budget.
“The time to articulate a developmental agenda has come; let us make hay while the sun shines,” Senator Melaye said.
For Senator, Mao Ohuabunwa, the poor allocation to the health sector is condemnable.
He wondered why the president should patronise hospitals abroad when the health sector is grossly under-funded, and proposed that one per cent of federal revenue should be spent on the sector.
Ohuabunwa further urged the federal government to separate the Ministry of Power from the Ministry of Works and Housing.
In his submission, Senator Gbenga Ashafa said the Senate needed to review the 2016 budget performance and learn some lessons.
“We must go back to the 2016 budget to see the performance and review the lessons we have learnt on inadequate funding,” he said.
Also contributing to the debate, Senate chief whip, Prof Olusola Adeyeye, decried the poor allocation to the education sector. He noted that only 20 per cent of Harvard University budget was allocated to the overall education sector in the country, describing it as appalling. The debate on the 2017 budget continues today.