Economy - The Senate yesterday kicked off debate on the 2014 Appropriation Bill. The debate which as expected is treading a partisan political line would last for three days. The bill, which is for an Act to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N4.642trn was laid on the Senate Chambers by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on December just before the lawmakers embarked on Christmas recess.
The Senators were however divided across party lines as Senators from the opposition party; All Progressive Congress (APC) who contributed yesterday were near unanimous in condemning the budget proposal. Though their active participation in the budget consideration was a marked departure from their party's directive to block the bill and other executive legislations from President Goodluck Jonathan.
The APC National Executive Committee (NEC) directed its members in the National Assembly, to block all "legislative proposals, including the 2014 Budget and confirmation of all nominees to military and civilian positions and public offices until the rule of law and constitutionalism are restored in Rivers State in particular, and Nigeria in general.
However, the APC Senators participated gleefully in the consideration process, though the outlook pointed to the fact that the party would oppose the budget all the way.
Senators Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe),Sadiq Yar' Adua (APC, Katsina) and Babajide, Omowarare (APC, Osun) in separate contributions declared that the 2014 budget is the worst deal for the Nigerian masses and has no place for the poor.
Senator Lawan in his contribution faulted the palliative given to the troubled North East as a geo-political zone inspite of its present security challenges as compared to the quantum allocation to the Niger Delta region.
He further stated that budgets should be targeted to protect the citizens and the vulnerable in the society, adding that the implementation of the 2013 budget was less than 40 per cent; " this budget is the worst deal for the masses of Nigeria, how can you alleviate poverty with this kind of budget?"
Lawan disclosed that only N400billion goes to the Nigerian masses out of 1.2 trillion and called for more funds to be allocated to security to enable it properly fight the insurgents.
By Jonathan Nda-Isaiah and Uchenna Awom