President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday declared open a two-day public hearing on the 2020 budget which was presented to the National Assembly early this month.
The National Budget Hearing on the 2020 budget is jointly convened by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriation.
Declaring the public hearing open, the Senate President said the public hearing is aimed at accommodating the suggestions and inputs of critical stakeholders with a view to adding value to legislation through the channels of inclusion and public engagement.
He added that the successful implementation of a nation’s annual budget depends on increased participation by stakeholders, and awareness and education of citizens.
“The importance of the Budget proposal in national development cannot therefore be overemphasized. This is the reason why inputs have to be all inclusive as we are now set to do.
“We understand that the Budget proposal is about fiscal targets, resource allocation, public expenditure policy, productivity and efficiency. We also understand that the process is one of passage, mobilization and execution.
“For them to work well however, we have to have increased participation, which also amounts to empowerment in the realm of information, awareness and education.
“An improved understanding most times comes through exchange of ideas. It comes in a process of agreement and disagreement. Better awareness or an expansion of thoughts could also come through purposeful interactions.
“Other than this is the fact that public hearing is a legislative tool of participation. Through it, we engage with critical stakeholders and the public, either separately or collectively.”
He added that, “The overall essence is not just engagement or consultation, but also for the greater good of the people.”
Lawan said the collective decision of the ninth Assembly to revert to the January-December budget cycle as provided in the 1999 Constitution as amended, stemmed from the need to achieve a predictable economic framework for Nigeria.
Lawan said the present budget cycle in operation created problems of planning and implementation in the nation’s economic framework.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari on October 8, 2019, presented a N10.3 trillion proposal for the year 2020 at a Joint sitting of the National Assembly.
According to the details of the budget estimates, President Buhari proposed N556.7 billion for Statutory transfers; N4.88 billion for non-debt recurrent expenditure and N2.14 trillion for Capital expenditure.
Describing the present budget cycle as an ‘anomaly’, Lawan stated that reverting to a rather predictable macro-economic framework that spans the January-December timeline, would in turn positively influence micro-economic details in Nigeria’s annual budget.
He said: “This two-day Joint National Assembly Public hearing on the 2020 Appropriation is no doubt a special one. It is special because it is another important step in our bid to resolve the undesirable Budget cycle.
“This cycle has created problems for planning and for the proper implementation of the nation’s macro-economic framework.
“The macro framework needs to be reasonably predictable, the way it happens in other climes. It is when the framework is predictable that it can positively influence the micro details in the Budget proposal.
“The ninth National Assembly is committed to correcting this anomaly in Budget cycle. As legislators, we have set out to be exemplary in the fulfillment of our core functions, which includes legislation, representation and oversighting.
“We are assured that it is only a wholesome commitment to these mandates that can give us the much needed growth and development.”
Among those who attended the opening of the 2-day public hearing are: the Speaker of the House of Representative, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi; House Leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and House Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu.
Others are: Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jibrin Barau; Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Adaeze Stella Oduah; Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mukhtar Betara Aliyu; Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Igariwey Iduma Enwo; Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Olamilekan Solomon Adeola; Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central), and Senator Ibrahim Geidam (APC, Yobe East)
Among stakeholders present from the executive arm of government are the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, and Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze.