President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Monday, said the National Assembly will resist any form of blackmail from heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), ahead of the passage of the 2017 budget.
The two who spoke at the opening ceremony of the 2017 national budget public hearing, organized by the joint committee on Appropriations, said, the National Assembly is the only arm of government, empowered by law to appropriate funds.
Saraki in his remarks said: “As most of you may have observed, while government has made efforts to ensure that provisions in the Budget proposal aligns with the arching goal of pulling the economy out of recession and laying the foundations for diversified growth, certain provisions are clearly off the path. The Budget must address the critical issues setting back our national growth and development.”
Dogara in his contribution quipped: “We will never abdicate the onerous constitutional responsibility of appropriation no matter the degree of intimidation and blackmail the legislature is subjected to by persons who want to cow the us and brazenly put our democracy in a recession.”
Saraki, while explaining how the budget will assist the Federal Government in the diversification of the economy, as well as pull the country out of recession, said it is hoped that it will help in the creation of jobs and promotion of the non-oil sectors.
Saraki noted: “On a more specific note, the 2017 capital budget proposal is intended to support activities that will help to speed up the diversification of the economy and the promotion of the non-oil sector, as well as create jobs for our youth.
“Accordingly, it is expected that “Made-in-Nigeria” (that is, domestic production of food, materials and other commodities) will be encouraged. In addition, 2017 capital budget proposal is intended to engender private sector partnership in infrastructure as well as other critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing and services.”
On his part, Dogara said spoke more specifically on powers conferred on the National Assembly to appropriate funds. He accused pundits of meddling with issues that are beyond them.
He explained: “The Principles of the Public Fiscal and of Appropriations Control also impose an obligation on the National Assembly itself. National Assembly has not only the power but also the duty to exercise legislative control over federal expenditures. As a necessary corollary, the National Assembly is the repository of the obverse power, the power to prevent public expenditure except as authorized by it.
“Its always baffling to listen to some self acclaimed pundits who are apparently ignorant about the workings of our constitutional order, argue that the legislature cannot touch the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year which the President lays before National Assembly each year.
“These pundits maybe ignorant about the very nature and exercise of “executive power” which by our Constitution must be deliberate and limited. That legislative control over public funds is at the foundation of our constitutional democracy has never been in doubt.”
Chairman of the Senate committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Gombe, warned that in considering the budget, partisan politics must be set aside in the interest of Nigerians.
He promised that the joint committee will address the lopsidedness in the budget which favours one section of the country at the expense of others.
During the interactive session, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, denied claims that the Federal Government was planning on increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT).
Udoma was reacting to a question from Senator Ben Murray Bruce, who expressed worry that the private sector and MDAs were in sync on whether or not VAT will be reviewed upward.
He said: “I will like to talk about taxation. A view was expressed that we should not increase taxes. We were told that we should broaden the collection of taxes and that is precisely what is in the budget. There is no increase in VAT, there is no increase in companies income tax, there is no increase at all in taxes.
“No increase in taxes, but people who are not paying their taxes should pay because its unfair that some people are paying others are not paying. The idea is to increase revenue by broadening the tax base, not by increasing taxation.”
The public hearing continues Tuesday, when Civil Society Organisations and other interest groups are expected to make presentations.
By Ehisuan Odia…
RipplesNigeria ….without borders, without fears
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