Nigerian Senate begins debate on 2016 budget

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday,, commenced debate on the 2016 budget proposal, as the lawmakers brought to bear, their individual experience and professional knowledge on how best to implement the allocations.

The 2016 budget is designed to ensure that the Nigerian economy is revived, deliver inclusive growth, and create a significant number of jobs for Nigerians.

Total budgetary allocation is =N=6.08trillion, an increase of about =N=1trillion from the revised allocation of =N=5.09trillion for 2015. Federal government revenue collection is projected at =N=3.86trillion for year 2016, which is up by =N=0.41trillion from the previous year.

In his lead debate on the 2016 appropriation bill, the Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume lauded President Buhari’s ability to propose a budget that seeks to stimulate the economy, making it more competitive by focusing on infrastructural development, address immediate problem of youth unemployment and underemployment, and prioritising the welfare of Nigerians.

The 2016 budget is also based on certain assumptions including 2.2million barrels per day crude oil production, $38 per barrel crude oil price, and, an exchange rate of =N=197 against the dollar.

Major strategies                                            

Several aspects of the 2016 budget proposal that make it unique include, its non dependence on crude oil revenue, as the sum of =N=820billion is expected from crude oil sale while about =N=6trillion is expected from other non-oil sources of revenue.

More so for the first time, 30% of the Nigerian budget is allocated to capital expenditure with =N=500billion provided as social intervention fund.

Some senators expressed their happiness with this new budget focus, considering the current realities in the global economy. One of them is Senator Ahmed Lawan.

“The proposal before us is the first in the last 17 years that an allocation of 30% of the appropriation is given for capital. And for the first time, in a genuine, sincere and honest and transparent manner, the Executive arm of government, Mr. President has deemed it necessary to give ordinary Nigerians some succor, some hope and genuine one for that matter”.   

Senator Solomon Olamilekan also lauds the federal government for putting Nigerians and their future into serious consideration in the 2016 budget.

“I want to strongly believe that, for the Executive arm of government to have been able to do this, it means they are looking inward and looking beyond into the future”.

Another unique aspect of the 2016 budget is the planned recruitment and training of 500,000 graduates & NCE holders to teach in primary schools, a major policy & strategic initiative believed to achieve the dual objectives of boosting basic education & reducing unemployment in the country.

There is also the provision of =N=500billion to execute the public primary school feeding initiative, & free education programme for science, technology and education students in the tertiary institutions. 

But Senator Gbenga Ashafa expressed concerned over how government would manage the programme.

“Where is the money going to come from, is it going to be in collaboration with the states, which are already burdened with so much that they cannot even survive in paying salaries. How are we going to get these funds to ensure that these programmes come on board?” he quizzed.

The Nigerian government is optimistic that the 2016 budget bill, if passed by the National Assembly for the President’s assent, will consolidate on the gains of the change initiatives of the present administration, that seeks to promote economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction and service delivery to all Nigerians.

The only thing that is left to be seen is the extent to which the budget will be implemented to meet desired expectations when approved by the Legislature.

The budget debate continues on Thursday.