The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday disclosed that they lost about N350 billion to fund the 2019 budget, as the money was not there.
Lawan further disclosed that even the N160 billion proposed in the 2020 budget was at risk.
Lawan spoke while declaring open a public hearing convened by the Senate and the House of Representatives Joint Committees on Finance on 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).
Lawan, who said the Production Sharing Contract Act of 1993 would be reviewed, noted that “for long, Nigeria has been short-changed and, of course, we blame ourselves for that”.
He added: “Since the price of crude went beyond $20, Nigerians should have benefitted from that Act by immediately ensuring that we review it, where we would have gotten 50 percent of the increase in the price of crude, and we are talking about billions of dollars,” Lawan said.
The Senate President said it was an opportunity that “we squandered ourselves; the oil companies would have no business telling us to review our laws”.
Lawan said the Senate would on Thursday take the first reading of the bill to amend the Act and promised that the bill would be accorded expeditious consideration.
“We know that the executive will be on our side. We lost about N350 billion to fund the 2019 budget, because it is not there. And even the N160 billion proposed in the 2020 budget is at risk. So we have to do everything possible to ensure that what is ours as a country comes to us.
“And we are inviting the executive side of government to work with us on this very important Act that we are about to amend.
“We expect that before the budget is passed, this Act would have been amended and signed into law by the President,” Lawan said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, said about N80 billion had been earmarked for the social reinvestment programme in the 2020 budget.
Explaining why embargo was placed on employment, the minister said that the Federal Government decided to carry out such action because of paucity of funds.
She added that it was only the military and para-military that were exempted from the embargo.
Rolling out some of the salient issues included in the 2020 budget to be presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, Zainab, while speaking during the public hearing, said “N80 million has been earmarked for the social reinvestment programme”.
The minister said that employment opportunities not included in the budget won’t be allowed to take place.
“We are making efforts at reducing excessive spending. Employment is to be restricted to those included in the budget. Of course, that will exclude the military and the para-military,” Zainab added.
Also, the upper chamber of the National Assembly has introduced legislative action to impose tax on communication services.
This move by the Senate was to replace the 2.2% increase in the Value Added Tax being planned by the Federal Government as announced by the finance minister recently.
The Bill for an Act to Establish the Communication Service Tax, which was formally introduced on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday was sponsored by former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume.
Addressing newsmen, Ndume said the bill would not only help to spread wealth, but would not affect the ordinary people.
He pointed out that increasing VAT would have very deadly effect on the economy as it could affect prices of goods and services and take them beyond the reach of the ordinary people.