Members of the upper legislative chamber, the Senate were on Tuesday divided along party lines over the debate on the 2014 budget.
While the Peoples Democratic Party senators expectedly commended the budget and urged the upper chamber to consider its immediate approval, members of the All Progressives Congress in the Senate condemned the document and called for its rejection.
The strongly divergent sides maintained their different positions despite the appeal by Senate President David Mark to members to “see the budget from a nationalistic periscope, using a national magnifying glasses to view it instead of reducing it to partisan politics.”
Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma – Egba, in the lead debate, had explained that the budget was premised on the 2014 -2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, which took into consideration the heightened global economic uncertainty in 2013.
Ndoma – Egba attributed the drop in the 2014 budget estimates to the challenges occasioned by oil theft, pipeline vandalism and production shut-ins at mining fields which resulted in reduced oil revenue.
The drop in the 2014 budget estimates notwithstanding, the Senate Leader described the proposal as a framework that would certainly consolidate and add impetus to the transformation agenda of the current administration.
He expressed confidence that the budget was laudable because it would promote economic growth, wealth creation, poverty reduction and service delivery to all Nigerians.
Ndoma-Egba, who faulted the non equitable distribution of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme Funds and the reduction in the allocation to the Judiciary in the budget, however urged his colleagues to support its second reading and committal to committees for further consideration.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, appealed to the senators to take the debate on the budget with all the seriousness it deserved because it was the last one before the election year and very critical and key to the implementation of the ongoing projects.
Senator George Akume, stressed the need for the Ministry of Finance to forward to the National Assembly, necessary documents on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill to aid deliberations on the budget estimates.
He described the N268.3bn SURE – P funds as omnibus, being channeled to all sectors and wondered the real purpose of the money.
Senators Paulinus Igwe, Phillip Aduda, and Giang Pajok, all supported the passage of the budget but stressed the need to increase allocation to the Federal Capital Territory, Security, Judiciary to guarantee public safety.
However, most of the APC members who contributed to the debate like Senators Ahmed Lawan, Alkali Jajere, Abubakar Yar’Adua, Abdulmumuni Hassan and Babajide Omoworare, condemned the budget and asked members to reject it.
Lawan who described the budget as anti masses said it was packaged to further boost the economic power of top politicians, senior civil servants and high networth industrialists because 74 percent was allocated to recurrent expenditure while the 26 percent was voted to execution of capital projects.
Yar’Adua said the budget “does not worth the paper because it does not hold anything” for the common man.
“Everything in the budget is for the political class, for the rich and the bureaucrat. Is our economy better today than 15 years ago? Are we more developed today than 15 years ago? I want Okonjo-Iweala to resign because she has disappointed us,”