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Lawmakers divided over revised 2020 budget

New Senate president, Senator Ahmed Lawan
Senate president, Senator Ahmad Lawan

Federal lawmakers have expressed diverse views on the revised 2020 national budget transmitted to the National Assembly for consideration by the executive.

The N10.59 trillion 2020 budget was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in December, 2019.

The government had earlier proposed a downward review of the 2020 Appropriation Act in view of global economic realities occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs Zainab Ahmed had, on Wednesday, submitted the reviewed budget alongside the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)/Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) to the National Assembly for deliberations.

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Members of the National Assembly who spoke to our correspondents yesterday said the budget review became inevitable in view of the current economic realities.

Though some expressed reservations on some of the budget components, others expressed readiness to make all necessary adjustments and prioritise the items to reflect the present realities amid the COVID-19 challenges.

Senator Abdullahi Kabir Barkiya (APC, Katsina Central) said it was not surprising that the federal government was cutting down the budget size when oil price, the country’s economic mainstay, has dropped drastically.

“When we have this kind of problem, there must be budget review because oil accounts for about 85% of the federal government’s revenue, and the price has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central) said the Senate would look at the proposal “dispassionately” and do the appropriation “in the best way we could.

“We would look at it critically to see areas we could add more and those that we should reduce,” he said.

However, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers West) faulted the proposed 20% cut of capital expenditure, saying the move was not the wise thing to do.

“A better way is to prioritise projects that will be critical to take the nation out of the damaging effect of the pandemic; projects that will stimulate the economy and create employment. We can do this and still achieve the budget reduction,” she said.

Also, the Member representing Mangu/Bassa Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Solomon Maren, said the proposed reduction in capital projects would reduce the hopes of Nigerians who were looking forward for some projects to be executed in their areas.

“It will also place a huge burden on us because people always see us as a fall back option,” the lawmaker said.

Meanwhile, Daily Trust gathered that some committees, including the House Committee on Finance, would hold a meeting today to deliberate on the reviewed budget.

A member of one of the committees, who preferred not to be mentioned, said the meeting would look at areas that were affected by the review for possible adjustments.

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