Rep. Usman Wada who represents Babura/Garki federal constituency of Jigawa State said the House will be thorough in scrutinising the 2013 Budget and ensure its readiness by January 2013. He also gave reasons why it is inevitable for the federal government to dialogue with the Boko Haram. Excerpts.
Weekly Trust: As the House of Representatives is deliberating on the 2013 budget, is that to say it is satisfied with the implementation of the 2012 budget?
Hon Wada: No; the House is still not comfortable with the implementation for the 2012 budget, but you know the government cannot spend a kobo without them consulting the National Assembly. Last year, there was a delay by Mr. President in presenting the 2012 budget and before we finished deliberating on the budget, it took quite a while then before it was signed into law, money release to MDAs also took much time.
This was why the budget took too much time to be implemented. To avoid a recurrence, we decided to see if we can approve the budget before the end of the year so that hopefully by January 2013, the budget would be ready and government would release fund early for the MDAs
What should Nigerians especially the masses expect from the budget?
There are some sectors like agriculture that had been neglected by government over the years and that is one area that we will really take a critical look at. Nigerian imports virtually everything and this country has the climate and soil to produce any type of crop, so we will make a lot of input on the agricultural sector so that jobs can be created and enough food for the citizens. We intend to look at the power sector, because without energy nothing can work. Fifty per cent of Nigerian problems would be solved if there is constant electricity supply in this country. A lot of Nigerians have confidence in the National Assembly especially the House of Reps because we are closer to the people and we want to make sure that the 2013 budget would be different from previous ones. When the House asked the committees to do oversight on all the MDAs and bring their reports, we discovered that most of the MDAs had not been given their allocations, that was why we passed a resolution that by the end of September, the allocation must be releases or we will carry out action and most of the allocations had been released.
How feasible can the budget be given that both chambers separately take long time to look into it, and have to harmonise while the time is really short to do that?
What we want to guard against is for the president to sit on the budget up to March before he signing it and within that period, no money is being released for the MDAs. We also try to guard against short fall in the revenue that would accrue to the Federal Government. So, we want to assure Nigerians that the 2013 budget would be different from other ones. Last year, the executive requested for a three-month grace to finish implementing the budget, we hope they will do same for the 2013 budget so that it can be fully implemented.
How about the provision for subsidy in the 2013 budget?
Well they have made provision for subsidy, Mr. President has said they will not remove subsidy, how is the money being applied is the problem. This is why when there was partial removal in January, we voted against it. From the report on subsidy probe that we are getting form various government agencies, it is a bit confusing. None will give you a definite figure, the NNPC will say this amount was being spent on subsidy, the Ministry of Finance will say something different, the CBN would say another thing, PPPRA will say different thing and so on. So, the House wants to know what exactly the government is spending on subsidy. From N800 million in 2010, it amounted to N2 trillion in 2011. So you can you see that the figure keeps multiplying and nobody will tell you exactly how much it is. From what we have heard, trillions of naira is being siphoned in the name of subsidy into people's accounts. Although, the executive has tried to tarnish the probe report, I am glad that Nigerians have insisted on implementing it.
Despite the defence sector being appropriated the highest allocation, why are we still witnessing insecurity across the country?
I don't want to tell you what happened to the budget last year, but if you remember what the Senate President said when Mr. President brought the budget, he said what he (Jonathan) presented was a mere estimate and the National Assembly has a right to make an input. We made lots of inputs last year and along the way, so many things happened. We believe we will not allow what happened last year to repeat itself. We will look into this huge amount allocated to security and see how it is being spent and the impact it has on security. It is not just Boko Haram, but armed robbery, kidnapping and lots of crimes have been on the increase and something should be done about it.
Nathing is being heard about Hon. Farouk Lawan, is it true that the House has exonerated him?
If they have done that I would have known. I think the committee is still working on the issue, because I am aware that they invited Farouk and Otedola to appear, he came once and said he will not be able to make it, so the committee has not been able to represent its report to the House yet.
What will it take to restore peace back to the North?
I will advise government to dialogue with the Boko Haram sect. If America can enter Iraq with all its military might and technology and at the end of the day had to withdraw, if they (US) can enter Afghanistan and at the end of the day their mission was not fulfilled, and withdrew again and opted for dialogue, Nigerian government should enter into dialogue with the sect. Lots of lives and property are being destroyed because of this insurgency; it is not just effecting the North only, but every part of the country. People are now afraid to come to the North to do business and also lots of foreigners are afraid of coming to Nigeria to invest.
So we are not moving forward, our leaders must accept this dialogue. They should know those who have connection with this sect; some have indicated interest to dialogue on behalf of the sect, so government should reach out to them.