The initial controversy that trailed the 2015 Supplementary Appropriation notwithstanding, the Senate on Tuesday passed the sum of N574, 532,726,857 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari in the budget. The Supplementary Budget submitted to the Senate two weeks ago by President Buhari invariably enjoyed speedy passage amid resolve by Senators to remove all obstacles likely to obstruct plans for ending insurgency and fuel scarcity problems which the budget aimed to address.
The President had initially proposed the sum of N465, 636, 926, 857 as supplementary bill for 2015 whereas, the figure increased to 574, 532, 726, 857 when it was eventually presented to the Senate earlier in the week for passage. The Senate Appropriation Committee had initially queried the addition of N108, 895,800,000, although officials of government said the amount was meant to cover the fuel subsidy payment not initially captured in the supplementary budget for months of October to December.
The budget of N522, 258,934,505 billion as passed include payment of subsidy claims amounting to N29, 958,865,512 billion for Operation Zaman Lafiya, a code name for military operations against insurgents in the North East. The Senate President, Abubakar Saraki, in his remarks after the passage of the budget warned the ministries and agencies in charge of the expenditure to ensure a judicious use of the monies appropriated for them. He also charged the Senate Committees on Appropriation, Downstream Petroleum and Anti-corruption to closely monitor the budget spending and expose the erring ministries with a view to applying sanctions where necessary.
“This is a huge amount of money and I even believe that the so-called economic sabotage agencies, this is where their work is. “It is truly economic sabotage where billions of naira are being approved but not judiciously used, even our committee on anti-corruption must play a role to oversee every single payment. “We have made provisions till December, so we must ensure that this money is used properly.” The Senate President also urged Nigerians support of government in putting an end to subsidy just as he directed all relevant Senate Committees to work out appropriate legislative measures to assist in achieving subsidy removal.
Leading the debate on the passage of the Supplementary budget, the Senate Majority leader, Ali Ndume, decried the consistent increase in the amount voted for payment of subsidy, contending that the Senate had always been blackmailed into passing it. He said the only people benefiting from the subsidy are those supporting it. Ndume noted that it was easy for the Senate to get blackmailed on the issue of payment of subsidy because its failure to do so would mean that fuel queues at petrol stations would not disappear. He added: “We are left with no option than to pass it. The only option we have is to investigate it.”