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Senate ‘ll scrutinize every aspect of 2018 Budget – Sen Shehu Sani

**Says 2016/2017 performance didn’t meet expectations

The Senate has said that it is not in a hurry to pass the 2018 Budget, but will be painstaking in carefully scrutinizing every aspect of the budget proposal to ensure that the right thing is done.

The Senate Committee Chairman on Local and Foreign Loans, Senator Shehu Sani, disclosed this on Thursday during a courtesy visit to The Daily Times corporate office in Abuja.

Responding to questions regarding the December 19 deadline set for the passage of the bill, Sen Sani said that the Senate did not set any deadline for the passage of the budget.

He said that the Senate was trying to avoid a situation whereby the National Assembly would be blackmailed by the executive arm of the government.

According to him, the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari presented the budget, Nigerians expected the National Assembly to pass it.

He said, “But doing the right thing is more important than timing; and doing the wrong thing.

If you do the wrong thing and meet up with the deadline, you will plan to come back to do it again; so, why the rush? What we are trying to do is to balance up by doing the right thing at the right time. What is about to happen this time around is that we are going to scrutinise every aspect of the budget.

“Now, we have gone on Plenary to give every committee the opportunity to sit down and go through all aspects of the budget and interact with the relevant stakeholders to get the details.

“We have passed through 2016 and 2017 budgets; and it is a fact that the budget performance within these two years was not good enough; and Nigerians are not happy; and many are angry; and we do not want to be the scapegoat for the failure of 2016 and 2017 budgets. For that very reason, we must do everything possible to ensure that whatever is presented to us is thoroughly treated to address those very issues that were contained in the budget.”

Sani, while noting that the performance of the 2016/17 budget has not met the expectations of Nigerians, said that,
“We have been left with abandon projects, we have been left with unattended projects, we have also been left with promises and pledges that were made, but we were still not fulfilled. We are of the hope that this time around, we would treat the budget and return it back to the Executive for them to be able to sign it, and then we can move on.”

He also said that the Senate would not want to carry “the cross of failure” where they will be blamed for not passing the budget on time.
However, he assured that the budget would be passed in good time and will do the right thing, adding that: “We expect the Executive Arm to perform and fulfil their pledges so that they will not set Nigerians against us.”

On the implementation of the 2019 budget, he said: “if there were excuses in 2016 and 2017, there should be none for 2018 as the price of crude oil globally now is almost $60 per barrel.”

“Now at the outcome of the debate, suggestions were made between the benchmark of the 2017 budget. There is the expectation that we will be producing 2.3 million barrels per day; and we also have to go with two factors on the ground. One is that we have got a waiver from the OPEC. So, all these factors put together, there should be no excuse for 2017/18 budget implementation,” Sani said.

Asked whether the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) meets it promises to Nigerians on curbing insurgency, Senator Sani said, “There are aspects of the war that has been won and there are some aspect of it for which there is evident visibility of failure. Those areas where the government has succeeded is that they were able to keep the insurgents away from occupying some territories, hoisting flags and unleashing their own version of Islamic rules. To ensure that they do not preside over these territories they have been pushed away. Now the Insurgents have taken in a new formula of gorilla attack, attacking soft targets, schools, mosques, churches, markets. These are areas where they attack through suicide bombings. Another dimension to the violence is the Fulani herdsmen who have been unleashing violence against communities and innocent people in the rural areas; so, there is success in some areas.”

He said fighting a gorilla force is not something we can accomplish instantly, adding that, ” It is going to be a long time battle because many nations that are more powerful than Nigeria have been unable to contain and extinguished gorilla attack.

As for the herdsmen, I believe too that they are also acting like gorillas. They strike at villages and communities and then disappear. We are in for a long battle, but the zeal to succeed is how the people, the communities will be carried along because the insurgents and the herdsmen flower with the people; and it is only when you can work together with the people that you will be able to succeed.

“The people know the terrain more that the security agents. If we are talking about a zero end to gorilla attack, then we are simply chasing an illusion in the present context of the world today because today you hear of suicide bombings in Airports in Europe, train stations in Brussels, Bus Stations in UK.

” When you see all these attacks, then you will know very well that we are living in the world where no where is safe, no where is immune to violence so what is most important is that we must continue to do our best and the government must also do everything possible to upgrade our intelligence for them to be able.”

Senator Sani also disclosed that: “The important thing is that we have been able to fight the insurgents. There is more of interest of security agencies wanting to get accolades than for them trying to win the battle. Is like playing a match against an opponent and each of the player will be interested on scoring goals for his name to be recorded than where we have a team work where there will not be able any battle.

“The unity and coordination is not there and this create a vacuum in which the insurgents will continue to explore. Will the Military tell the DSS of what they know? Will the DSS tell the police what they know about the insurgency and how they can as a team tackle it together? You can see the negative impact of the war against insurgents. There are two ways to the approach to this; either a dialogue or necessary action.

Speaking on the issue of dialogue, Sani said, “We can achieve a lot through dialogue but whether our agencies are prepared to make sacrifices and to also give the dialogue option is what should be considered. If there is a dialogue to release some group of Chibok girls against dialogue to involve the security agencies, and then you hear a statement that we are going to go ahead with our operation, how will that help? And this is what we read everyday on the pages of newspapers.”

“When you see a dialogue and at the same time you see a very unpleasant remark, how will that work? When a security agency is willing to engage in dialogue and another security agent is not, it causes a lot of problem because you are going to do a lot of work towards releasing the girls.”

Henry Umonu, Mathew Dadiya, Andrew Orulua, Doosuur Iwmbe and Tunde Opalana, Abuja

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