President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, has said that the early consideration and passage of the 2020 budget, that returned the nation ’s budget cycle to January-December, has increased its implementation.
Lawan said this on Thursday at plenary, the third day of debate on the 2021 Appropriation Bill presented before the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Lawan in his remarks on the country’s return to the January-December budget cycle, described the move as a major achievement under the Buhari administration and the 9th Assembly.
According to him, the low implementation that characterised previous budgets has been significantly improved upon as evident in the 2020 budget.
This, Lawan said, had resulted in Ministries recording between 50 per cent and 75 per cent implementation rates on capital projects across the country.
“In the last three days, we have witnessed submissions raising issues about the budget estimates presented to us by Mr President.
“This is in continuation of our efforts to ensure the desirable cycle.
“That we have taken the annual budget to January-December will be a legacy.
“This will be our legacy as the 9th National Assembly and the legacy of Mr President.
“We have been able to do this together and there’s definitely a difference in the implementation of the 2020 budget compared to the others.
“Some Ministries and projects have received up to 75 per cent funding. There’s none that has received less than 50 per cent.
“While this may not be exactly what we want, it is still an improvement and we will continue to urge the executive to implement the budget up to 100 per cent.
“But I believe that we have seen the benefit of passing the budget in good time, and this is something that we will continue to do,” he said.
On monies generated by agencies of government, Lawan faulted the country’s low revenue earnings on the failure of revenue agencies to remit all sums to the Federation Account after collection.
He, therefore, advocated for improved revenue generation, collection and remittance methods as ways of shoring up the nation’s revenue figures.
“I think our revenue generation, collection and remittances need to be better.
“There are many agencies of government that are supposed to be generating revenues and they do so, but they don’t remit all that they are supposed to,” he said.
He said that the relevant committees would interface on a monthly basis with revenue generating agencies to evaluate their performance, device ways of improvement where they underperform or fail to meet revenue targets.
This, Lawan said, would reduce the deficit inherent in 2021 budget and subsequent budgets.
“It will as well as reduce Nigeria’s dependence on loans to finance capital projects which the country direly needs.
“When we are able to get more revenues, we will reduce the deficit, because this budget has big deficit, and this is because we simply have no resources as at today and we need to have our infrastructure in place.
“So, the issue is for us to diversify the funding and finances of the projects.
“We may not do completely without borrowing, but we could do diversification of the sources of funding.
“We could go for Public Private Partnership like many Senators here suggested, so that we reduce the necessity to borrow.
“Whatever it takes, we have to provide infrastructure in this country, otherwise, we would never move beyond where we are,” Lawan said.
The Senate President while emphasising the importance of oversight by the National Assembly, harped on the need for the Federal Government to cut down on the cost of governance.
This, he said, could be done by merging some of its agencies.
“The responsibility of the National Assembly or Parliament is that whatever we appropriate is properly, economically and efficiently applied.
“This is an oversight function that we must continue to do.
“Before we pass the 2021 budget, we should be able to know how much of the 2020 has been implemented.
“This is because some projects need to be rolled over to 2021, and we need to know the extent to which they have been funded in the 2020 financial year,” he said.
The 2021 Appropriations bill which passed the second reading on Oct. 15, was referred to the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative work.
The Committee Chaired by Sen. Jibrin Barau (APC – Kano North), was asked to turn in its report to plenary in four weeks.