Deliberations on the 2016 budget proposal on Wednesday expectedly pitched senators in the All Progressives Congress, who are in the majority, against their Peoples Democratic Party counterparts, as they expressed divergent views.
While the PDP senators sought for the withdrawal of the N6.08trillion budget, those of the APC maintained that the budget was in order.
Indications that the deliberation was going to be a stormy session began when Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume sought for permission to lead the debate on the budget at the plenary session.
The senator, while leading the debate, said the budget, christened “budget of change”, would promote economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction and service delivery to all Nigerians.
Ndume’s submission, however, charged the atmosphere in the Senate as some lawmakers mumbled in disagreement, with some of them shouting “order”.
But Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC/Osun East), raised a point of order, observing that the debate should be limited to the financial and economic situation in the country and the government’s financial policy.
“There was no need to even wait for any estimate because we are taking the general principles”, said Omoworare.
In his submission, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC/Osun Central), said the budget cannot be deliberated upon when it was clearly stated that it was the second day.
But the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, urged distinguished senators to allow the Senate leader lead debate on the budget, even as he approved the point of order raised by Sen. Omoworare.
Noting that debate on the budget could be extended to enable the lawmakers to be ready for their contributions, Saraki said, “The debate is done on the general principles of the bill. We have always had a way of how we do our things here in the general interest. The leader proposed, he will lead the debate and we had allocated three days from Tuesday. If any senator is not prepared to contribute, we will adjust days so everybody is allowed to contribute. Let the leader lead the debate and if you need more days, we can create more days”.
But in his submission, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP/Abia South) pointed out that the 2016 budget is “a change in the wrong direction”, adding that because it was based on zero budgeting, Nigeria would go about borrowing.
“It is a ‘Budget of Change’, I agree; but it is a change in the wrong direction”, Senator Abaribe said.
He continued: “I say it is a change in the wrong direction because it says that it is based on zero budgeting, requiring all expenses to be fully justified. Mr. President, a budget that increases spending up to 30 percent based solely on borrowing. In what way is it justified? That is the question we want to ask the people, who brought this budget as change”.
Speaking next was Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who noted that the nation’s Budget has always seen an increase over the years, from between 10 and 20 percent.
Appealing to the Presidency to be realistic, Ekweremadu warned that the 2016 Budget would not be implementable if it is not reduced by 20 to 30 per cent.