Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki has insisted that the 2019 budget proposal of N8.83 trillion is “hopeless.”
The budget was on December 19 presented to a joint session of the national assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari where he was booed by some aggrieved lawmakers.
Saraki, in an interview with THISDAY, said the proposal is not only hopeless but deceptive.
The Senate president first made the comment when he hosted some civil society organisations (CSOs) in Abuja on December 20.
The minister of information, Lai Mohammed responded to Saraki’s comment by saying the executive would not exchange words with the legislature.
“To the best of our knowledge, we presented a budget given the circumstances of our resources this year, we feel that is the best we can. It is left for the national assembly to consider it,” Mohammed had said.
But Saraki wondered why the executive would use a benchmark that is higher than the current crude oil price.
“I made a comment where I said it was a hopeless budget that will rarely bring Nigerians out of poverty, diversification of the economy and inclusive growth,” he said.
“When I said that, I noticed a lot of people were a bit defensive, saying the statement was borne out of politics. I am a kind of person that is responsible enough to choose my right words and I am happy about this question.
“If you followed the previous budgets under this administration, there was no budget under this administration that I have ever used any word as strong as that. Some of the budgets had given hope; some had tried to address growth. But this budget (2019 budget) particularly, I still stick to my words: it is not only hopeless; I think it is even deceptive. Is it that those that prepared the budget did not ask themselves these questions?
“Looking at the issue of the oil price, they had not completed the budgeting exercise, when the price of crude oil dropped to 50-something and they are now using the benchmark higher than the current crude oil price, what does that mean? If some people believe that the price might go up, then they better come back later with a supplementary budget.”
Saraki said it is disturbing to note that 70 percent of the budget is “already gone on recurrent, debt servicing and others.”
“It’s clear that any shortfall of revenue is going to be very impactful because already between the crude oil price and production we have already seen that once we don’t meet those targets, we are going to have a huge deficit problem,” he said.
The Senate president said the country’s independent revenue has been underperforming “from day one of this administration.”
“They keep giving the man independent revenue that is not realistic: N700 billion, N800 billion, and N900 billion. Look at the implementation; N150 billion and N200 billion,” he said.
“These are areas we have been telling him. Independent revenue is not working, because there are many leakages.
“In a government that claims to be fighting corruption, the level of leakages is too huge. You are giving a budget of N900b and they are coming with N200 billion so that N700 billion does not allow the implementation of the budget because the first charge will go to personnel.”