In a parliamentary session marked by debates and calls for transparency, the Nigerian National Assembly is poised to pass the ₦27.5 trillion 2024 Appropriation Bill on December 19. The ‘Renewed Hope’ budget, presented by President Bola Tinubu, has stirred discussions among lawmakers, with a focus on deficits, sectoral allocations, and the need for detailed information.
Deputy Senate President Jibrin Barau hinted at the potential passage date during the plenary, emphasizing the urgency before the Christmas and New Year break. While senators applauded Tinubu’s intentions for the country, concerns were raised about the lack of detailed budget information from the executive.
The budget, themed ‘Budget of Renewed Hope,’ carries a deficit of ₦9.18tn, constituting 3.88% of the nation’s GDP. Tinubu outlined plans to finance the deficit through new borrowings of ₦7.83tn, ₦298.49bn from privatisation proceeds, and ₦1.05tn drawdown on multilateral and bilateral loans for specific development projects.
In a bid to address economic challenges, Tinubu expressed the administration’s commitment to limiting the inflation rate to 21.4% in 2024. Tax and fiscal policies are under review, aiming to increase the revenue-to-GDP ratio from less than 10% to 18% during the administration’s term.
Finance Minister Wale Edun affirmed that the budget would be financed with less deficit than in the past. Acknowledging the reliance on loans, Edun emphasized downsizing the borrowing size while ensuring the budget’s feasibility.
During the parliamentary deliberations, Senator Babangida Hussaini stressed the link between unemployment and insecurity, urging a focus on skills development and job creation. Senators Tahir Monguno and Sadiq Umar echoed the need for employment generation to address rising insecurity.
Senator Ali Ndume defended borrowing, emphasizing the importance of visible developments resulting from loans. Meanwhile, Senator Abba Moro criticized the small allocation (7%) for the education sector, falling short of the UNESCO recommendation of 26%.
Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe raised concerns about the power sector’s omission in the budget, emphasizing the critical role of electricity in job creation and economic activities. He urged a thorough examination of budget projections and proposals for essential organizations.
The debate witnessed diverse contributions, with senators expressing varying opinions on borrowing, sectoral allocations, and the overall impact of the budget on citizens. Some senators called for detailed budget information to ensure informed deliberations.
Senator Kawu Sumaila objected to debating the budget without detailed information, emphasizing the importance of sectoral breakdowns. Deputy Senate President Jibrin Barau countered, citing the merits and demerits presented by the President and the Senate Leader’s comprehensive overview.
As lawmakers discussed the budget, the concerns of opposition members highlighted regional disparities, with calls for increased allocations to education, health, and infrastructure in certain regions. Members urged private sector involvement in budget implementation and emphasized the need for a secure environment to attract investments.
The House of Representatives also passed the $27.5 trillion budget for second reading, with lawmakers advocating for increased allocations to education and health. The debates reflected a collective desire to ensure the budget addresses regional imbalances and contributes to the nation’s development.
As the National Assembly moves forward with the budget process, the coming weeks will witness committee meetings, budget defenses, and a final consideration of the 2024 Appropriation Bill on December 19. Lawmakers aim to strike a balance between economic growth, regional development, and fiscal responsibility in their scrutiny of the ‘Renewed Hope’ budget.