House wants oil benchmark at US$60 per barrel

4. The House of Representatives yesterday, approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for ongoing external loans to the tune of $8,325,526,537 (USD) and €490,000,000 (Euros) under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan.

The House of Representatives has asked that the oil benchmark for the 2022 budget proposal should be set at US$60 per barrel.

This will be different from the US$57 brought by the executive.

The House also called for zero allocation for government agencies that refused to implement the 2020 budget as appropriate.

This followed a debate on the 2022 budget proposal on the floor of the House on Wednesday in Abuja.

Newsmen reports that some members of the House said that since crude oil is put at US$80 per barrel, the benchmark should be increased to US$60.

Leke Abijide (ADC-Kogi) stated that the benchmark of US$57 per barrel was a bit low, considering the US$80 per barrel as of now.

He added that it should be increased to US$60 dollar per barrel.

According to him, “aside from this area, the budget is one of the best ever by the President and it deserves our commendation”.

He also commended the president for making capital projects a priority, while raising concern over the issue of borrowing and the exchange rate.

“With the exchange rate, what I did with my Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) last year, I may not be able to do this year because of the exchange rate and that is the only thing to perform in my constituency,” he said.

The Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Dogwa, said the 2022 budget is the highest in the history of Nigeria and it is imperative to invest in infrastructure and agriculture.

Others, according to him include education, health, adding that they were the cardinal principle of Buhari’s administration.

He stated that the legislature, in partnership with the executive, must endeavour to sustain the January to December budget process.

He urged the various Committees to also work on oversight to ensure that the budget passed by the lawmakers and assented to by the executive is implementable.

Onofiok Luke (PDP-Akwa Ibom) commended the House for sustaining the January to December budget implementation and working to ensure a cordial relationship with the executive.

He, however, said that the provision of N50 million for hazard allowance in the 2022 budget proposal for medical officers which was why they went on strike, would not augur well.

He commended the federal government for capturing the hazard allowance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that medical officers were at risk because of their exposure.

“We have had a whole lot of brain drain in the last few years, there is a need to up their hazard allowance from N5,000 to something that will boost the morale of medical personnel.

“We also need to be at pace with how the world is moving in terms of technology, in order to fortify our security personnel with requisite gadgets,” he stated.

He said that there was a need to ensure that the judiciary was well taken care of in the 2022 budget.

He said that the country’s debt servicing should be critically looked into, considering the astronomical rise in Nigeria’s total debt.

He added that the borrowing should be put into productive use such as power, road, public infrastructure among others.

Sergious Ogun (PDP-Edo) called for the review of the budget performance quarterly by various committees in the House in view of poor budget implementation by government agencies.

“Are we really saying we are seeing changes in line with the yearly budget implementation?

“This will help us to put government agencies on alert, and where they are doing well we will commend and also give appropriate sanction where they are not,” he said.

Toby Okechukwu (PDP-Enugu) said that the yearly budget had always been a motion without movement, adding that “the subsidy regime baptised by under-recovery” is hurting the economy.

“We cannot continue to subsidise, there is no way we can commit debt to recurrent expenditure and still want change,” he said.

The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, said, “I thank the House for living up to the expectation of Nigerians by committing the budget to debate, which means we are ready to move the country forward.”

He charged various committees to be up and doing by going to find out which projects were yet to be implemented by government agencies to enable the House to do its work.

He added that their findings would inform what the lawmakers would do moving forward.

“My worry is the loan, but when the loan is taken it should be for a good purpose. We should look at how to strengthen power.

“The budget should be able to address abnormality to ensure that all our hospitals and infrastructure are up to date

“On the issue of budget implementation, I want to say that the onus is on the committees. Because some agencies are refusing to implement the budget and I see no reason why we should continue to patronise such agencies.

“I submit that NASS should not give one naira to any agencies that have not implemented the budget.

“Funds from agencies which failed to perform must be moved to other areas like education,” he said.

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