The 2020 Appropriation Bill submitted to the National Assembly last week by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate.
The upper chamber has subsequently adjourned plenary till 29th November 2019, to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government defend their respective budget proposals before the Committees of the Senate.
In his concluding remark during the last day of debate on the 2020 budget estimates, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, identified revenue generation as a major challenge of the budget.
According to him, the successful implementation of the budget may be difficult to realise until proactive measures are taken to address the situation.
He said: “We are seriously challenged in the area of generating revenues, and it appears that until something drastic is done, this shortage of revenue will continue to militate against the implementation of the budget.
“We have to continuously engage the revenue-generating agencies and schedule quarterly evaluation to be handled by our relevant committee, particularly the Senate Committee on Finance.”
He added, “We need to look at how we can enhance the capital allocation. The shortage of funds will militate against that.
“We have a serious challenge when only thirty per cent is devoted to the capital budget, but that is an improvement from what we inherited from 2014 when the allocation was fifteen per cent. But that is not to say we cannot do better.
On recurrent expenditure, he said “We have so many agencies of government, over six hundred of them and we have to pay.
“Probably, we need to look at how we can streamline the agencies; that is not to say that we will lay off workers, but we must establish the functionality and usefulness of these agencies.
“We also need to look at the direction of Public-Private Partnership, especially in the laying of physical infrastructure. We can concession our roads, instead of taking money from China.
Lawan, while advocating for a knowledge-based economy, appealed to the Federal Government to create an environment that would create jobs for the youths.
Speaking on attracting investments, he said, “We cannot realistically attract even domestic investments in any sector without security; not to mention direct foreign investments into our country.
“The funds may not be enough, but when properly applied we can achieve positive results.
“Our soldiers and other personnel of security agencies who are exposed to dangers need to be properly remunerated.
“Their allowances must be given to them at the right time, because these are incentives that we owe them.”
The Senate President also warned some agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to submit their respective budgets to National Assembly or risk zero-budget allocation for the year 2020.
“The NDDC’s 2019 and 2020 budgets have not been brought here. The warning to NDDC is if they don’t bring the Commission’s 2020 budget proposal in time, there won’t be money to spend anymore, because government funds cannot be spent without appropriation.
“Appropriation is the responsibility of the National Assembly, and we are not going to allow our responsibility slip through our fingers.
“The same thing goes for the Nigerian Communications Commission, Federal Capital Territory Administration and any other agency that has not sent its budget. The budget that we undertake at this time will be holistic.”