The Senator representing Rivers West Senatorial District, Betty Apiafi, has raised a critical issue on the 2020 budget performance as a joint session of chambers was set to receive the 2021 budget to be presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.
At Wednesday’s plenary, which had the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) dominate the proceedings, Apiafi warned that the MTEF-FSP, which is a preview of 2021-2023 budget was so strategic that the Chambers need to interrogate the 2020 budget performance.
Apiafi’s view was triggered by the report on the “2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper submitted by the Senate Committee on Finance to the Senate Committee of the whole.
She submitted that:” This is so critical to what we are going to do in the next three years. This Fiscal Paper is going to determine what we are going to do in this house for the next three years.
“The committee should have given us the synopsis of what happened in the 2020 budget. We all know that the 2020 budget had its own challenges because of the pandemic, but the question we should ask ourselves, is how has the budget implementation been? How has the release been?
“Most of the projects we have in the budget have not been implemented. So there is need to have ideas about those issues before we proceed.
“Last year in the budget speech, we saw that NNPC has been removed from the cost of Operation. What have they used the money for, yet there is a higher production cost.
NNPC should be summoned to see how we can reduce cost of operation.
“At one fora, we said we were going to reduce cost of operation by 10 or 15 per cent. At the moment the cost of operation of NNPC is hovering between 30 and 33 per cent, which is higher than that of other countries.”
While reeling out statistics to express her discontent on the 2020 budget performance, the lawmaker wondered how a nation like Nigeria should be heavily dependent on borrowings to move ahead.
“Having said that, looking at the total budget cost is N13 trillion and out of that N5.6 trillion is for recurrent expenditure while N3 trillion is for personal cost bringing the total expenditure on recurrent to N8.6 trillion.
“Capital expenditure is N3 trillion, what is worrisome is that borrowing is about N4.7 trillion while loan repayment or debt servicing is N32 trillion. When you add up these two it has more or less swallowed our revenue projection with over N7 trillion, so we are borrowing money to pay salaries.
“It is really an issue of serious concern in a situation where our revenue for the year is almost equal to our borrowing and loan for the year. It is really worrisome because for me as a nation we are just doing a lot of motion without movement.
“Look at the infractions by revenue generating agencies where a lot of them are engaged in frivolous expenditure making it difficult to determine the Federal Government revenue.
“Where revenue generating agencies are engaged in outright non remittance or under remittance. Where many agencies generate expenditure under sundry administrative guidelines; where the cost of collecting revenue by revenue generating agencies is too high, then I tell myself we are just making motion without movement”, she insisted.
After contributions by other Senators, the MTEF was passed into law ahead of 2020 budget to be laid by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.