From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate said, yesterday, that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has no economic blueprint to pull Nigeria out of recession.
The country’s upper legislative chamber gave the verdict during reconsideration of Buhari’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), yesterday.
The lawmakers also added that the president’s economic team is in disarray.
The legislators described the MTEF/FSP as shallow and empty and warned that if the documents are passed, as presented, they would have created room for the executive to present a faulty 2017 national budget.
Last month, Senate returned the MTEF/FSP to Buhari and in an October 19 letter, signed by Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, the chamber said it expected Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma to brief its leadership on some key issues contained in the documents.
Udoma did not turn up for the proposed meeting. The two documents, alongside the rejected borrowing plan, were returned to president Buhari.
Speaking on the new documents yesterday, Chairman of the Commitee on Defence, Senator Ahmad Lawan noted that “the benchmark is realistic. But, I have my reservation about the production level.
“We need to bring in more efforts to reconcile the government and people of the Niger Delta.
“This, in my opinion, will be the only way through which the government can achieve the 2.2 barrels per day.
Senator Dino Melaye, who was more critical, urged his colleagues to reject the proposals.
He said the documents were riddled with falsehood and that there was no significant difference between what was passed last year and what was presented to the National Assembly this year.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa said the documents were unrealistic.
He said: “We either accept or make necessary amendments to what has been presented.
“We can criticise, but we need to work with what we have. We have looked at the unrealistic projections made. One critical issue I want to raise is the estimated projected earnings of the government. It has significant shortfall.”
Senator Emmanuel Paulker aligned himself with Lawan and Melaye.
He said: “Looking at some of the parameters, it is glaring that you cannot comprehend the truth behind these assumptions.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor said unemployment is high.
“The current inflation rate is 18.3 per cent, but, this document is misleading us by saying that the inflation rate is 4.6 per cent.
“I will not suggest that this document be returned, but, we must admit it was poorly prepared.”
Senator Sani Yerima opposed his colleagues and insisted that the documents were not empty.
“He said those uncomfortable with them should make their inputs.
“To say that this document is empty means that those saying it have not read it.
“What we need to do is to look at what is projected. These things were not done from the blues.
“You cannot just sit here and say that this document is empty.
“As an economist, I suggest that we pass this MTEF/FSP. Whoever has any issues can then make inputs.”
At the end of the heated debate, the two documents were approved and referred to the Committees of Appropriation, Finance and National Planning.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio said president Buhari will submit estimates of the 2017 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly in December.