Member representing Etinan/ Nsit Ibom/ Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency, Mr Onofiok Luke has expressed concern over the sum of N3.9 trillion earmarked for debt servicing in the 2022 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly.
Luke who was speaking during the debate on the 2022 Appropriation Bill on the floor of the House of Representatives said that it is worrisome to have an amount which represents almost 25 percent of the whole budget allocated for debt servicing.
According to Luke, “another source of concern is that the proposal before us has a deficit of N6.2 trillion and government is proposing new borrowings to finance this deficit. What this implies is that total public debt of Nigeria is expected to rise to N5 trillion in 2022 fiscal year. This is worrisome not only for today but generations unborn and the future of Nigeria”.
In his opinion he held that debt parameters should be revenue- debt ratio and not debt – GDP ratio as revenue pays debt and not GDP.
“Let us do what we can to try to reduce the deficit and how we can reduce borrowing”, Luke said.
The lawmaker warned against borrowing for consumption. “There is nothing wrong with borrowing provided we borrow and put it for production not for consumption. So as we begin to look at it let us take the future generations of Nigeria into consideration while we get to borrow and make sure the borrowing is being put into productive ventures”.
He urged the federal government to channel the sum borrowed towards investment in critical sectors like power and roads.
Luke also stated that recovered looted funds can help reduce the rate of borrowing. “We are talking about recoveries of loot and misappropriated funds, if we apply these it can help in reducing our deficits and borrowings.”
He commended the Federal Government for the plausible recommendations in the budget. “My constituents have asked me to share and then appreciate and look at it and commend it. One of them is the provision of about 50 billion for hazard allowance for medical personnel”
“We commend this effort of the federal government to capture this. I believe that this would stem the tide of industrial action in the health sector in 2022”.
“Another provision in the budget that is commendable is the statutory to the national Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure. The world is going technology and we need to be in pace with how the world is moving and I want to commend Mr President and commend the FEC for looking at this perspective to try to have a statutory transfer for the agency”, Luke said
Addressing the the plight of Nigerians, Luke stated that, “the target of 13 percent inflation is not feasible, but what is achievable is that we should try to have a mechanism that would address the cost of food, cooking gas, and electricity bill. In this case, there should be provision for metres and we should make sure we cater for Nigerians in this regard”
He also drew the attention of the federal government to the poor state of Calabar – Itu road. According to him “Calabar -Itu road that area is being cut off. People spend 8 hours on the road. And we have seen something less than a billion naira allotted to that road in the different lots that have been given. That is quite inadequate. We have to invest in our road and in our public transportation”.
Luke who is also the Chairman House Committee on Judiciary lauded the increase in the statutory transfer to the judiciary.
“Before now we have been crying for increased and improved welfare for judicial officers and we have asked the FG to try to increase the statutory transfer to the national judicial council so our judges and judicial officers can be taken care of, our courts can be equipped and then we can make provision for technology in our courts so that we can be at par with others and adopt best practices and be at par with advanced democracies that we see”.
“The increase of statutory transfer by 10 billion to the national judicial council to take up the judiciary is quite commendable” Luke said.
Luke also advocated that the oil price benchmark in the proposal be increased. “The pegging of oil price at 57 dollars per barrel is totally quite very low. It is not sustainable. Permit to add that in the last three years since 2018, we have had a year high at an average of about 60 dollars per barrel. So we should be advocating that there should be the upping of the pegging of 57 dollars per barrel to 60 per barrel”, Luke said.
He commended his colleagues for always working to achieve a budget cycle of January to December since 2019.
Etinan /Nsit Ibom/ Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency.