The House of Representatives yesterday began the consideration of the 2014 budget of N4.64 trillion which was laid before the chamber in December last year by the executive.
Though the debate on the general principles of the Bill which was led by the majority leader, Hon Mulikat Akande-Adeola (PDP, Oyo) was adjourned till today, lawmakers took turns to express their views on the money bill, with many of them expressing objection to the allocation of more funds to the Niger Delta amnesty programme than the security agencies in the country.
In his contribution, the deputy minority leader of the House, Hon Kawu Sumaila (APC, Kano), citing section 16 (2) of the 1999 constitution which provides that the economic system of the country should not be operated in a way that will concentrate wealth in few hands, said the bill violates that provision by making huge allocation to amnesty programme in the Niger Delta while other parts of the country were not taken into such consideration.
Other areas of concern raised by the lawmaker include poor allocation to critical sectors including power, education and security.
He said the federal government showed by the budget proposal that it was not serious about the fight against insurgency.
"The sum of N63 billion is expected to cover stipends and allowances of 30,000 Niger Delta ex-militants, and amnesty programmes while the total capital allocation to the Nigeria Army, Ministry of Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force and Police formations is pegged at N41.08 billion. This is a clear message that the government of the day is not serious about stemming the insurgency in northern Nigeria," he said.
Earlier before commencement of debate on the bill, the speaker, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal appealed to his colleagues to de-emphasize personal interest in the consideration of the budget.
The speaker said this while reacting to the report of a six-man ad-hoc advisory committee set up last week by the House to thrash out issues raised by Hon Emmanuel Jime (APC, Benue) against the passage of the budget.
Jime had last week raised a point of order that the minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had breached the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) in the budget by failing to attach details of the estimates of some departments and agencies of government such as NNPC in the budget.
The report which was presented by Hon Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba), chairman of the Rules and Business committee of the House, urged the House to consider the budget in national interest consider the budget while asking Okonjo-Iweala to submit the detailed budget in line with the provisions of the FRA.
At this juncture, Tambuwal ruled that although Jime's point of order is "well founded and sustainable, the House in deference to the over-riding national interest should proceed with the deliberation of the budget."
"Our nascent democracy is at a precarious stage as jockeying for political offices has made some people desperate."
"Many have allowed their interest to stand in the way of national interest he emphasized," he said.
Reps Raise Alarm Over Leprosy Outbreak
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday raised alarm over the outbreak of leprosy in Nigeria which last year recorded 3,805 infections according to the Leprosy Mission Nigeria.
The new cases ranks Nigeria among 16 endemic countries in the world recording more than 1,000 new cases annually, a development federal lawmakers blame on Nigeria's dysfunctional health care delivery system.
To this end, the House on Tuesday called on the country's health ministry to set up treatment centres across the six geo-political zones to ensure early detection and treatment in a bid to check the resurgence of leprosy infection.
The House Committees on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (lead) and Health were detailed to ensure compliance and report to the House in three weeks.
These were fallouts of a motion on urgent national importance moved by Hon. Patrick Ikhariale (PDP/Edo) on the leprosy outbreak in Nigeria.
"Leprosy, a forgotten issue is staging a comeback... a high level of neglect has taken place in the health sector... we must take every step and commit our resources to ensure that the health of Nigerians is not at risk," Ikhariale said in his lead debate.
LEADERSHIP reports that despite a drastic reduction in the number of the world's leprosy patients, from 5.2 million in 1985 to a mere 189,000 by 2012, Nigeria has been losing the battle to contain the disease.
The Leprosy Mission Nigeria, the Nigerian affiliate of an international organisation serving the needs of people living with leprosy, raised the alarm in the run-up to the January 26 World Leprosy Day that the incidence of leprosy infection was on the rise again in the country. According to the TLMN, while there were 3,500 new cases in 2012, the number increased to 3,805 last year.
Before the recent resurgence, leprosy had been eliminated from 119 out of 122 countries where it was considered a health problem in 1985.
Nigeria now joins countries such as Angola, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, South Sudan, and Congo DR, that still boast pockets of high endemicity today.