Both chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday, passed for second reading, the request of President Bola Tinubu for the approval of a N2.1 trillion supplementary appropriation bill.
Tinubu, in his letter specifically sought the National Assembly’s approval for a supplementary appropriation bill of N2,176,791,286,033.
Tinubu said the supplementary budget was aimed at addressing labour wage adjustments, security, and other matters.
The bill seeks to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N2,176,791,286,033 of which N18 billion was for Statutory Transfers, N992,802,015,985, was for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure while the sum of N1,165,989,2 70,049 was for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on 31 December 2023.
In addition, the sum of N210 billion was for wage award; N400 billion was budgeted for cash transfer to vulnerable households; while N200 billion is for Seed and Agricultural Inputs and equipment.
Also in the bill, the sum of N100 billion was for projects in Abuja; N604 billion for National Security and Defence; N300 billion for the maintenance of Bridges across Nigeria; N8 billion for the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy and other new Ministries, while N18 billion was for the conduct of elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo States.
Also, Tinubu in the supplementary budget proposed to spend over N7.3 billion on procurement of vehicles for the State House.
The breakdown showed that the federal government plans to spend N2.9 billion on Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for the Presidential Villa and another N2.9 billion is budgeted to replace operation pool vehicles. Also, the breakdown of the proposed expenses indicated that the sum of 1 5 billion is budgeted for the purchase of official vehicles for the Office of the First Lady.
Furthermore, the sum of N4 billion was budgeted for the renovation of the residential quarters of the president, while renovation of Dodan barracks, the official residence of the president in Lagos would also gulp N4 billion. Also, the sum of N2.5 billion is budgeted for the renovation of Aguda House, while N3 billion is budgeted for the renovation of official quarters of the vice president in Lagos.
In addition, the computerisation and digitalisation of the State House would gulp the sum of N 200 million .
The red and green chambers adjusted their standing order to accommodate both the first and second reading of the bill after the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Rt. Hon Tajudeen Abass, separately read the official communication that accompanied the bill from the President.
Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele and the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Julius Ihonbvere, in their separate lead debates posited that the present administration was doing its best to respond to the yearning of the people.
They noted that the budget came at a time when it was needed.
In his submission, the Minority Whip, Hon. Ali Isa, expressed concern about the implementation of the 2023 Appropriation Act.
Contributing, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, commended the federal government for being proactive in its approach.
He said, “Your Excellency, how you know a proactive government is when such a government has policies that are as dynamic as the changing times and tide in the nation.
“If you may recall, not too long ago, government took some serious critical economic policy. That policy created gaps but the government didn’t close their ears to the yearning, the tears of the citizens.
“What they did was to run to the parliament for supplementary budget of about N819 billion to cushion the effects. That was excellent.
“Again, the government has noticed that there are gaps not created by this government but created by economic circumstances we have found ourselves. Created by what we have inherited over the years,” he added.
Also in the red chamber, Senators in their various contributions, during the debate commended the federal government’s initiative.
Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, said, “We are all aware of the fact that whenever a new government gets ushered into office, it is normal for that government to bring forward a supplementary appropriation bill to tailor the affairs of such government in line with the policy and programme of the new government.
“Normally, you have this kind of supplementary appropriation bill being brought to the National Assembly for approval in the first or second month of such new administration but this government decided to take its time to study its challenges and areas that need funding.
“It took time. And so it decided that the challenges that we face in the areas of insecurity, agriculture and infrastructure should be dealt with. Then it decided that this bill should be brought for approval. It is a normal practice everywhere in the world.
“There is no government that will come without re-arranging the budgeting structure, the Appropriation Act so that it gets tailored with its policies and programmes. So, this is not something new.
“Some may argue that there was a supplementary appropriations bill brought in but that was an amendment, it wasn’t something that was put together by this administration.
“It was brought in by the last administration, but what we needed at that time was an extension of time and the issue of oil subsidy removal came facing us so a certain amount of money was taken to deal with that matter.
“So, this is the real supplementary appropriation bill for this administration and it is normal.
“I, therefore, call on our colleagues to support the current administration by the passage of this bill to get it dealt with as soon as possible because we are facing the problem of insecurity.
“We can see what is happening even within Abuja here, the issues of kidnapping, one chance and robbery are now commonplace.
“We have seen issues of kidnapping and so forth in Northcentral and the Northwest and the challenges we are facing in the Niger Delta in terms of oil theft and so forth.
“The federal government needs the appropriation bill to deal with these issues. It is something that we need to support so that the government will be able to secure our country, enhance our infrastructure and the agricultural sector as well,” he added.
The Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume, stressed the need to provide the security agencies with what was needed to tackle insecurity.
He said the budget was made to tackle short and immediate needs and stressed the need for it to be extended so that it would tackle all challenges
Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Sani Musa, said the budget was necessary for the off cycle elections in three states.
It is better to appropriate the money so that INEC will start preparation on time, he added.
Senator Abdul Ningi said the budget based on the president’s letter would capture the minimal requirements of the security agencies.
According to him, the fund, when appropriated, the committees of the Senate should ensure that they carry out oversights.
“The students loan should reflect the interest of the 36 states of the federation,” he added.
Senator Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa West) expressed delight that the budget would not be funded from the ways and means but with the foreign exchange differential.
“We must determine whether the country is getting value for the money we are spending on security. We must carry out necessary oversight.
“Almost a trillion into defence and security. Needs for interaction with stakeholders because there is need to get value for the funds appropriated. N800 billion earmarked for federal roads. My state was most affected by the flooding. I request that those projects be captured,” he added.
Senator Sumaila Kawu expressed reservation on the students’ loan.
He added, “We need to satisfy the needs of our constituency. There should transparency. The criteria for accessing the loans is cumbersome. There should legislative input into the scheme before its implementation.”
Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, commended Tinubu for bringing the supplementary bill to address inflation, working population, students and decay infrastructure.
Adedayo Akinwale and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja