Ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s presentation of the 2022 Appropriation Bill to a joint sitting before the National Assembly on Thursday, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the federal lawmakers would mount more pressure that would ensure revenue-generating agencies remit N1tr annually to the treasury to fund its budget.
Lawan spoke after the chamber approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s submission of the revised 2022-2024 fiscal framework, noting that such increased revenues will reduce the government’s deficit and dependence on external borrowing to fund the country’s national budget.
The increased revenue, he stressed, can be realized, if the executive and legislature arms of government collaborate to ensure that revenue-generating agencies remit all monies collected to the treasury.
“I’m sure that those MDAs that remitted N400bn could possibly have remitted N1tr, if we had pushed harder, a statement by Ezrel Tabiowo, Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate, quoted him as saying.
“So, we need to push harder because what this means is a revelation, that many of these MDAs have been cornering funds that ordinarily should have gone to the treasury.
“But for many years, they have been taking the funds unfairly and illegally. So, we should not be content with only N400bn.
“It is a good thing that it happened because that is an exposure of what they have been doing.
“But we must insist that it goes beyond the N400bn. I’m sure we can get even more than N1tr.
“I agree that we need more revenues so that we are able to fund our budget with less deficit.
“But we can only achieve that if the Executive and Legislature work hard to ensure that the revenue-generating and collecting agencies perform their jobs very well and remit the funds to the treasury,” he added. n
Speaking on the government’s resort to external borrowing, Lawan said, “I also agree that the deficit or the borrowing is a bit high.
“But then again, the choice is limited, because on one breadth we cannot say that we will not borrow because it is becoming too much when we don’t ‘have ways and means of funding infrastructural development in the country.
“[And] we cannot say we should just fold our arms and not do anything because the country will never move. So, it’s a catch-22 situation.
“I believe that we need to be very mindful that we need to reduce the borrowing, but that means we have to improve on the revenue that we receive.
“I believe that the additional revenues that have not been captured like the TETFUND, Bank of Industry, and so on, were before just left out of the federal budget. Now, we can see everything, and we need to see more.”
Contributing to the debate on the revised 2022-2024 fiscal framework, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) advised the federal government to take seriously the issue of diversifying the Nigerian economy, stressing the need to explore alternative revenue sources such as mining to boost the country’s revenue figures. For him, “the time of oil is over”.
Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers West) described the government’s decision to jerk up the 2022 budget projection from 13.98tr to N16.45tr as over-ambitious and a proposal taken too far.
One of the major challenges confronting the national budget, she added, is the absence of funds appropriated for under-recovery, warning that “no matter how much you get in terms of revenue, and we are really struggling, under-recovery can wipe that out.”
Apiafi called for sanctions on any Ministry, Department, and Agency of government that violates the provisions of the Appropriations Act, insisting that the sum of N510 billion for Service Wide Vote in the 2022-2024 revised framework was “outrageous.” She insisted on the National Assembly being given a breakdown on how the amount would be utilized.