N5trn Borrowings In 2022 Budget Worries Reps 

Members of the House of Representatives yesterday expressed worry over the decision of the federal government to borrow the sum of N5.01 trillion to finance the N6.6 trillion deficit in the proposed 2022 budget.

The lawmakers made  this known during the debate on the general principles of the 2022 proposed budget presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.

While commenting on the bill, chairman, House Committee on Customs,  Hon Leke Abejide commended President Muhammadu Buhari for making capital projects a priority in both 2021 budget and the proposed 2022 budget.

Quoting a reliable source, the lawmaker said some of the projects in the 2021 budget have been funded 100 per cent.

“That is why I have little concern about borrowing. Once the capital projects are executed, it will lead to economic growth and subsequently economic development.”

The lawmaker also expressed worry about the assumptions of the key parameters of the budget, especially the issue of crude oil production per day, it was put at 1.8 million per day, ” he said.

According to him, during our Media Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) hearing and the GMD NNPC appeared before the House Committee on Finance, he said the average production range is between 1.6 million to 1.7 million per day. So, in projection, it is always good to be realistic. The average of 1.7 million per day is more realistic than going higher, because when there is a shock, it will be difficult for us to remedy it. I think it is over ambitious to out it at 1.8 million barrels per day.

In his submission, chairman House Committee on Federal Judiciary, Onofiok Luke commended the president for the plausible recommendations or proposals in the budget and equally raising concerns about the fresh loans.

The lawmaker commended the federal government for the provision of about N50 billion for hazard allowance for medical personnel, stressing that part of the issues that led the medical personnel to go on strike was the hazard allowance which were not paid.

He called for an upward review of the proposed N50 billion hazard allowance for medical doctors as part of measures towards reversing the exodus of medical personnel to other countries amidst the lingering pandemic.

Onofiok emphasised the need to invest in defence, considering the insecurity facing the country today was quite commendable, but however urged the judicial use of the finances allocated to the sector.

He noted that the increase of statutory transfer of N10 billion to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to take up the judiciary was quite commendable.

Onofiok, however, decried the sum of N3.9 trillion for debt servicing, which represents almost 25 per cent of the whole budget, saying this is worrisome and raises some issues of concern.

He stressed the need to invest in defence, considering the insecurity facing the country today was quite commendable, but however urged the judicial use of the finances allocated to the sector.

He further noted that the increase of statutory transfer of N10 billion to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to take up the judiciary was quite commendable.

Onifiok decried the sum of N3.9 trillion for debt servicing, which represents almost 25 per cent of the whole budget, saying this is worrisome and raises some issues of concern.

“Now to the next point on the issue is borrowing. There is nothing wrong with borrowing provided we borrow and put it for production not for consumption. So, as we begin to look at it, let us take the future generations of Nigeria into consideration, while we get to borrow and make sure the borrowings are being put into productive ventures.

“While we put the money borrowed to infrastructure three clear things come to mind. We have looked at security. We need to invest in power. Let us borrow to invest in power and roads. We have road challenges across the country.”

The  minority leader of the House, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, also expressed worry about the loan, saying why there’s nothing wrong about the loan, but noted that when loan is taken, it should be for a good purpose.

“With the emergence of COVID-19, this budget should be able to address those abnormalities before us, by ensuring that our medical centres are up to date with infrastructural technology required. I see no reason why this National Assembly should patronize such agencies. If we find out that truly, they have not done anything to the previous budget. I submit that this National Assembly should not for any reason give money to that agency, ” Elumelu said.

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