The House of Representatives yesterday began deliberations on the 2021 Appropriation Bill with majority of them calling for a beef up of the capital component, expressing concerns on the high ratio of recurrent expenditure, despite the huge infrastructure deficits in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari had, last Thursday, laid before a joint session of the National Assembly, the budget bill, proposing an aggregate expenditure of N13.08 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year.
Before the commencement of debate, chairman of the committee on appropriation, Hon. Muktar Betara, had given a summary of the proposed budget and stressed the need to pass it on time. In his contribution, Hon. Ahmad Yunusa who commended the early presentation of the budget, however said there were areas that needed to be tinkered with.
“The National Assembly has been trying to reduce the cost of governance. We need to bridge the gap between the capital and the recurrent expenditure,” he said. Also speaking, Hon. Stanley Akinjide underscored the need for relevant regulatory agencies to adopt new technologies in order to curb corruption as well as block leakages and reduce the cost of governance. Hon. Leke Abejide noted that the budget estimates as proposed by the President cannot make any meaningful impact on the citizens. He, therefore, urged the House to redirect funds to more productive sectors that could help in enhancing revenue generation.
In his argument, Hon. Mark Gbillah demanded that the budget should be withdrawn, since it was not in compliance with Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, as, according to him, the threshold of deficit recommended by the Act was exceeded in the 2021 budget.
He was ruled out of order by Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who noted that the document before the House was yet a proposal. Debate on the bill, however, continues today and it is expected that at the conclusion of debate, it would be committed to the standing committees of the House for further engagement with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).