The Senate Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume, has justified the speedy passage of the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bill within 48 hours by the National Assembly.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu had on Tuesday submitted the N2.17trn Supplementary Budget, and the Senate and House of Representatives adjusted their rules to pass the Appropriation Bill on Thursday.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on Saturday, Ndume, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, said the National Assembly passed and approved the budget in 48 hours in the interest of the nation.
The Borno lawmaker said the budget was quickly passed to provide funds for the takeoff of the new ministries that were created by the President Bola Tinubu-led administration.
Ndume added that the Ministry of Agriculture needed funds meant for the purchase of grains as palliatives to encourage farmers to engage in dry-season farming so as to guarantee food security.
He said, “The increases of prices of fuel, costs of essential services and food items have gone up in the country following the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
“Workers embarked on strike many times as a result of this, and there were negotiations between the organised labour unions and the Federal Government.
“At the end of the negotiations, the Labour and the Federal Government agreed that workers would be paid N35,000 in addition to their minimum wage.
“If N35,000 is paid to each of the over 1.5 million workers, the amount is huge. The money was captured in the supplementary budget.
“There were also agitations among parents of students in tertiary institutions following the increment in the tuition fees, and the Federal Government came up with a wonderful idea of giving loans to students in tertiary institutions hence provision of N5.5 billion was made in the supplementary budget for that purpose also. The two chambers of the National Assembly met on it, and we both agreed to jerk it up to N10bn.
“This is because our members from the House of Representatives argue that the provision of N5bn made for the procurement of the presidential yacht was not necessary at the moment. It was the Yacht money that we added to the initial N5bn provided for student loans which jerked it up to N10bn.”
Ndume said the Senate was not silent on the N5bn provided for the yacht, saying that the Senate and the House of Representatives Joint Appropriation Committee had agreed to transfer it to the student loan expenditure.
He added: “We had already acted on the N5bn provided for the presidential yacht and removed it from the budget before the public outcry.
“It is not true that the Senate was silent on the N5bn provided for the yacht. We had harmonised with the House of Representatives before the joint appropriation committee of both chambers prepared and presented their reports. It was even signed by the two chairmen.
“The only thing was that the Navy asked us to forget about the yacht and pleaded with us to allow them to have the N5bn so as to enhance their operations, especially in the areas of fighting oil bunkering and crude theft in the Niger Delta and we immediately told them to utilise their operational funds for that purpose.
“There is also the provision of N8bn for the takeoff of the new ministries that were created by the President Bola Tinubu-led administration. It is very important for them to get certain things put on the ground to start working.
A particular amount of money was also provided in the Ministry of Agriculture, which was meant for the purchase of grains as palliatives to encourage farmers to engage in dry season farming so as to guarantee food security.”
Ndume also said the Senate quickly passed the budget to provide funds for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states on November 11.
He added: “Apart from this, the Senate considered that since the Independent National Electoral Commission has its off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states on November 11, and N18bn was captured for that purpose in the supplementary budget, they needed to access the funds for the proper conduct of the polls.
“The Nigeria Police Force is supposed to supervise the election, and it would need more personnel hence the sum of N20bn was earmarked for that purpose.
“The Nigerian Army would also need additional money for duty allowance to the soldiers on the field who are currently engaged in all the states of the federation. Each of them is being paid a minimum of N5,000 per day. It is not a small amount of money at all.
“Another item captured in the budget is the housing sector which got N100bn. The thinking of the government is that it will tackle the challenge of housing deficits in most urban areas in the country.
“There is also the N300bn allocated to the Federal Ministry of Works. It was not for the construction of new roads but to make the existing roads motorable. This is the opportunity to do so now that we are already in the dry season.
“There is no single provision for the National Assembly, and we ensure that each geopolitical zone in the country got N8bn to fix roads in their areas.
“The sum of N28bn was allocated to the State House. The funds allocated for the presidential fleet were for the maintenance of the aircraft, which are serviced abroad in dollars. President Bola Tinubu did not buy a single aircraft. He inherited all of them, and he has to maintain them otherwise, if he skips their maintenance, the aircraft would all be grounded.
“We asked questions as members of the nation’s parliament, and we were satisfied with the answers provided.”