The Senate, on Wednesday, said President Muhammadu Buhari has no viable economic blueprint to get the country out of its current economic recession.
Lawmakers who spoke during the reconsideration of President Buhari’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), said the economic team of the President is in disarray.
The Senators discredited the documents and described them as shallow and empty. They warned that if the documents are passed, it will create room for the executive to present a faulty 2017 national budget.
Speaking on the new documents, Senator Ahmad Lawan noted that the oil production target of 2.2 million barrel per day was unrealistic. He also faulted the inability of President Buhari to resolve the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
Senator Lawan said: “The benchmark is realistic. But I have my reservation about the production level. We need to bring in more efforts to bring reconciliation between the government and people of the Niger Delta. This in my opinion will be the only way through which the government can achieve the 2.2 barrel of oil per day.
“I also have reservations on the N290 to a dollar exchange rate. I am a practical person. The current exchange rate is more than N300. The black market rate is more than N400. How can we then budget N290? Let us be realistic. This exchange rate cannot work. We must be careful not to produce a document that will not work.
Senator Dino Melaye who was more critical, urged his colleagues to reject the proposals. He described the documents as false and riddled with falsehoods. He said there was no significant difference between what was passed last year and what has been presented to the National Assembly this year.
Melaye thundered: “If we speak the truth, we will die, if we lie, we will die. I have decided to speak the truth and die. Yesterday, the government said the huge debt is responsible for the current recession. This document is a lie. This document is not truthful, transparent, factual and real. This time last year, we passed an MTEF for three years.
“What happened to the MTEF? What is the difference between what we got last year and what we have now. We want to know the level of compliance of what we got last year. We need to be furnished. These things are not stipulated in the MTEF.
“The proposed rate of exchange rate, is it true? Democracy is about transparency and sincerity. The GDP is going down and this MTEF document is telling me that it is going up? How do you collaborate this fraud? We need to know what percentage of our revenues you will use in servicing our debts.
“Recently, our Minister of Budget and National Planning showcased his ignorance by telling the whole world that he did not know the current debt profile of the country. This document should go back to where it came from. A reasonable document which will meet up with the yearnings of Nigerians should be presented. As it stands now, we cannot take it.”
In his contribution, Senator Gbenga Ashafa said the documents were unrealistic. He said: “We are either to accept or make necessary amendments to what has been presented. We can criticize, but we need to work with what we have. We have looked at the unrealistic projections made. One critical issue I want to raise is the estimated projected earnings of the government. It has a significant shortfall.
“My observation is that those saddled with the responsibility of preparing this document should come up with the list of debts we are owing. We need to know the terms and conditions upon which we will pay back. We need to ensure that we secure a better future for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Senator Emmanuel Paulker aligned himself with other previous speakers. He noted: “Looking at some of the parameters, it is glaring that you cannot comprehend the truth behind these assumptions. The CBN Governor said that the unemployment is high. The current inflation rate is 18.9 per cent, but this document is misleading us by saying that the inflation rate is 4.6 per cent. I will not suggest that this document be returned, but we must admit that it was poorly prepared.”
Senator Sani Yerima from Zamfara state opposed his colleagues and insisted that the documents were not empty. He said those uncomfortable with the documents should make their inputs.
He said: “To say that this document is empty means that those saying it have not read it. What we need to do is to look at what is projected. These things were not done from the blues. You cannot just sit here and say that this document is empty. As an economist, I suggest that we pass this MTEF. Whoever has any issues can then make inputs.”
Senator Bayaro Nafada from Gombe state countered Yerima. He noted: “I have looked at this document. The essence of this document is to prepare the budget. If we do not get this correctly, it is possible that we will not get the budget of 2017 correctly. If we point out areas where there are issues, we are not attacking the government. We are only assisting them.
“Yesterday, the CBN Governor said the official exchange rate is N305 to a dollar. But they are sending us N290 to a dollar. This is unrealistic. Even the projected oil production per day is unrealistic.
Senator Jibrin Barau said: “The MTEF is a proposal. It is not sacrosanct. I want to say that we look at the document, make necessary adjustments and pass it. If you look at the assumptions in this document, you will see that everything is wrong.”
Senator Samuel Anyanwu observed: “This MTEF is unrealistic. The inaccuracies are too enormous. Those who formulated this document are not transparent. For me, there is no document before us. There is trouble in the Niger Delta and oil production is low. What they projecting will not work.”
At the end of the heated debate, the two documents were approved and referred to three committees. The committees are Appropriation, Finance and National Planning.
By Ehisuan Odia…
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