Debate on 2021 budget: Senators call for infrastructure development

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Infrastructure
By Naomi Sharang
Abuja, Oct. 14, 2020 As debate on the 2021 appropriation bill of N13.08 trillion entered the second day, senators have called for infrastructure development in the country to make life easy for citizens.

Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill on Wednesday during plenary, Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi announced continuation of the budget consideration by the lawmakers.

Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege recalled his contribution during the 2020 budget debate said, “for us to be able to achieve this 1.86 million barrels per day, certain things must be in place.

“We must have peace and maintain peace in the Niger Delta region before we can achieve this.

“Mr President, when I say this it begins to sound as a broken record.

“Every day we hardly sleep, we are very worried because these are the people that lay the golden egg that take care of this economy but they are jobless, there is nothing for these youth to do.

“That is why we maintain that the youth in these communities are engaged and the only way they can be engaged is for these oil companies which explore oil in these communities in the Niger Delta help in creating jobs.

“The thing they should do is to have their headquarters of their businesses located in the region.

“The infrastructure that we have in the region is in serious state of decay, major road connecting Delta and Edo is being cut in half and journeys that take about 30 minutes from Warri to Benin now take hours.”

Omo-Agege said that it was bad enough that the economy was in its present state but there was need to maintain the available infrastructure so that those in the Niger Delta would cease to agitate.

He added, “it is clear that the only two sources identified in this budget are the revenue from oil for the most part, and borrowing, both local and foreign.

“But Mr President, we also have other sources or potential sources that are not being looked at.

“We keep talking about leakages; why even go into leakages when we can go directly into solid minerals sector.

“This is an area we must develop because there is revenue there that will take the burden from international borrowing,” he said.

Similarly, Sen. Bima Enagi (APC-Niger) commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the total expenditure of about N13.08 trillion for 2021.

He said the estimate is about 21 per cent above the 2020 budget in spite of the contractions in the second quarter and the possibility of the economy going into recession.

“I consider the budget conservative and achievable.

“To have made the budget conservative in nature, the President and his team have shown a very good understanding of our people and country.

“The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is estimated to rise from N5.84 trillion to N8.43 trillion which represents about 44 per cent increase from that of last year.

“One could say that this is ambitious but it is achievable if the revenue generating agencies like NNPC, Nigeria Custom Service, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) transmit as expected of them.”

He, however, said that as laudable as the appropriation was, there were areas of concern “considering the worsening insecurity,.

“One expects the country to spend more on security so as to confront the evil challenge that is facing the country.”

“Our annual allocation to agriculture has remained below three per cent negating our commitment to the Malabo Declaration of not lower than 10 per cent of the annual budget.”

While making a case for Nigerian roads, Enagi appealed to the Federal Government to tackle the country’s deplorable roads headlong.

“We really need to declare an emergency in the road sector. All is not well and Nigerians are suffering.

“I’m seriously worried about Nigerian roads, I’m seriously worried about Baro Port in Niger as commissioned by Mr President in January last year. But up till now, the port is not functional.

“The Nigerian roads must be improved upon; the Baro Port must be made functional. In the whole northern Nigeria, there is no any inland water port,” he said

Also, Sen. Adamu Aliero (APC-Kebbi) reiterated that there was no way the over 600 roads across the country could be funded by budgetary provisions alone.

“I propose that the National Assembly should come up with a workable solution on how to fund infrastructure in the country.

“For that reason, I recommend Public-Private Partnership to fund road infrastructure,” he said.

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