The Nigerian Senate on Thursday concluded its second day of deliberations on the 2020 Appropriation Bill and will continue the process next Tuesday.
The lawmakers had commenced debate on the bill on Wednesday- a necessary criterion for consideration and passage of a bill.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday proposed N10.3 trillion for the nation’s spending for next year
One assumption of the budget is that Nigeria will use nearly a quarter of the budget (N2.5 trillion) to repay debts the government owes locally and internationally.
The budget was also prepared on the assumption of $57 per barrel with crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day.
Mr Buhari also presented the Finance Bill to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.
The Bill seeks to increase the Valued-Added Tax rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.
About 25 lawmakers gave their contributions on the floor of the Senate during the debate.
Enugu North Senator, Chukwuka Utazi, who supported the proposed increase in VAT, hoped that the objectives of the Finance Bill would be fulfilled.
He said “it is going to help these industries of micro, small and medium businesses have a breather in the country”.
“I am using this opportunity to also tell the manufacturers in pharmaceuticals that if the federal government has given them this leeway, that they too should not go and increase the cost of their drugs so that it will be out of reach for the common man,” he warned.
Speaking on capital expenditure, he said the budget is a departure from the past “because the government is not doing new projects”.
He called for speedy completion of ongoing projects.
“I also want to say, because I am coming from the South-east of this country, I know we have so many abandoned projects in our area.
“One is the second Niger bridge. It is very important to us because we as businessmen, we are always moving up and down. The Akanu-Ibiam international airport, for 43 days now, that airport has been closed and we are begging that in this year’s budget, the federal government should allocate money since we are not doing new projects, to ensure that these airports are done for us.”
Earlier, the Senator representing Kebbi Central, Adamu Aliero, commended the President on the proposed increase of VAT.
He also hoped that “what has been allocated for the state and local government is utilised for that purpose. ”
The lawmaker also said the Special Investment Programme is a good one but should be all-inclusive.
“I suggest that the National Assembly will help to ensure that the money go to whom it is meant for. The poverty level in this country is very high and higher in the north,” he said.
Mr Aliero also called for more funding for the ministry of works. This, he said, is to enable the ministry to immediately complete ongoing road projects.
“Our roads are in very vulnerable condition and there is no way the money budgeted will take care of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads.
“I, therefore, suggest that we should increase the amount budgeted for the ministry of work so they can carry out the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the deplorable roads in the country,” he said.
After a series of contribution which lasted for over two hours, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, announced that the lawmakers will continue the debate next Tuesday.