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Budget: Reps seek downward review of N6 trn deficit, borrowings

…seek rethink of N50bn hazard allowance for doctors

Members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday called for prudent utilisation of funds as well as proposed domestic and external borrowings in the 2022 proposed budget. The House also called for a downard review on the expected N6 trillion deficit announced by the Federal Government recently.

The lawmakers made the call at the opening of debate on the 2022 appropriation bill at plenary presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila. Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom), who made the call, applauded the N10 billion increase in the allocation for judicial officers but called for an upward review of the proposed N50 billion hazard allowance for medical doctors as part of measures toward reversing exodus of medical personnel to other countries amidst the lingering pandemic.

He said: “Following from the above, there are plausible recommendations by the FG in the 2022 proposals which my constituents have asked me to share and then appreciate and look at it and commend it. “One of them is the provision of about 50 billion for hazard allowance for medical personnel. We would recall that as part of the issues that led the medical personnel to go on strike is the hazard allowances which were not paid and even as of now those hazard allowances are quite very minimal. “We commend this effort of the federal government to capture this. I believe that this would stem the tide of industrial action in the health sector in 2022.

“It is also commendable in the sense that we are still fighting COVID 19, we know that the federal government had paid for about three months COVID-19 allowance, and after that those allowances have not been paid. We know what are medical personnel are exposed to daily so there is need for them for to be paid these allowance so it can be a morale booster.

“We have had a lot of brain drain in the last few years, because our eggheads have been pushed to go into other climes because of the challenges we have here. So while we are commending Mr. President for this, there is need for us to up that hazard allowance from N5,000 which has been for over 20 years to something that will boost the morale of those medical personnel.”

On debt servicing, Hon. Onofiok, who observed that the sum of N3.9 trillion for debt servicing, representing about 25 per cent of the whole budget was worrisome, tasked Federal Government on the need to review it. “Another source of concern is that the proposal before us has a deficit of N6.2 trillion and government is proposing new borrowings to finance this deficit. What this implies is that then total public debt of Nigeria is expected to rise to N5 trillion in 2022 fiscal year.

This is worrisome not only for today but generations unborn and the future of Nigeria,” he noted. Also speaking, the Chairman of the House Committee on Works, Hon Kabir Abubakar, stressed the need for standing committees to investigate how money allocated to various intervention programmes are utilized, and the need for upward review of proposed fund for road projects, adding that the Ministry of Works was currently having N640 billion outstanding certificate against the N280 billion proposed for roads in the 2022 budget estimates.

He said: “We need about N500 billion for the road sector. “The Tax Credit Scheme, where companies are allowed to develop road infrastructure and they are giving tax holidays to the tune of the cost of the project. An example is the Apapa – Oworoshoki Expressway in Lagos and the Kabba – Obajana road in Kogi state by Dangote. Other companies like LNG, Flour Mills, MTN and recently NNPC have all indicated their interest to participate in the Tax Credit Scheme.”

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