The Nigerian Senate President warned on Tuesday that with falling oil prices, the 2016 budget proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari can only succeed if non oil revenue sources live up to high expectations.
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki was answering questions from Senate Correspondents after commissioning the newly upgraded and refurbished Senate Press Centre at the National Assembly in Abuja.
When asked if the 2016 budget is implementable in view of the dwindling price of crude oil at the international market, Saraki said: “I think this is one of the reasons why we are having the MDAs defend their proposals before the Committees to be able to test some of the scenarios and some of the assumptions, particularly on the revenue side. if you look at the revenue, out of about N3.8trillion, N3trillion is coming from non-oil and independent revenue.
“The success of the budget, in my own view is less on the benchmark. It is more on those two items – non-oil revenue and independent revenue – and that is why we directed our Committee on Finance and other relevant Committees to really scrutinise the revenue side.
“Even the Senate leadership intends to also engage with the ministries as well to really check those two lines, because that is really where the questions come on whether it is achievable. Before we put our signature to it, we need to be sure that those funds are there.
“I believe they are ambitious but it is a good sign, because it begins to make us less dependent on oil. Because if N830billion is coming from oil revenue and it is only 23%. So, even if the price of oil goes down or up, we are not really so much vulnerable than that of the time oil revenue was accounting for 70 of our revenue. From that point of view, I believe that once we can do that, it is achievable”.
The Senate President also advised the executive to put a proper plan in place for implementing the budget now that the National Assembly is working to pass it in record time.
He said the National Assembly would soon amend the Public Procurement Act to facilitate quick implementation of the budget.
Saraki added: “But also talking about being achievable or implementable, already, some of the things we are going to look at and which we are going to advise the executive on is that while we are working on the budget now, they too should also start making a plan on how to implement the budget because what tends to happen is that even after we have passed a budget, the administration or its bureaucracy sometimes makes the budget difficult to be realisable.
“And two areas: one is looking at the procurement process and it is very likely that we will need to come out with an amendment bill as regards to certain areas of the procurement law. That is something that we are likely to come out with very soon. People are looking at that now to see again how we can assist the executive to see that the budget is implementable,” he said.
On the need for transparency and openness in the National Assembly budget, Saraki said: “On the issue of National Assembly, I think I’ve kept on repeating this many times. If you remember, even during the time the leadership was constituted, one of the issues that came forward was that we will have an open and transparent Eight Senate and I still want to be held to that.
“Also during this process, of course, National Assembly budget too will also be debated and by the time the final document is out, I can assure you that we are going to move away from the time of one line item for the National Assembly to a National Assembly where there will be a break down according to different sections of the institution.”
While commenting on the remodeled and refurbished Senate Press Centre, Saraki said the 8th Senate is poised to leave a good legacy behind in all aspects of the National Assembly.
He said: “It (upgraded Senate Press Centre) signifies a commitment that we all see that in the Eight Senate, we will ensure that every aspect, we are poised to do things differently. We will try and improve on what we met and I hope by the time we finish our tenure, we would have left the Senate better than we met it.”
Earlier, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said the Press Centre was refurbished to create a befitting working environment for journalists reporting the activities of the Senate.
Abdullahi said: “What we have done here with your magnanimous support, we have turned this place around so that when we come here to speak to Nigerians about the Senate, let Nigerians see that the environment we are doing it is befitting of that institution.”
In his response, Vice Chairman of the Senate Press Corps, Shagari Sumbo thanked the leadership of the Senate for improving on the Senate Press Centre and making it more conducive for the Correspondents to carry out their assignments.
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