The Speaker House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas has said that the 2024 budget must prioritise investment in education and healthcare, which is critical to human capital development and a more productive workforce.
Abbas stated this during the 2024 budget presentation by President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday in Abuja.
According to him, the budget laid before the National Assembly should not be seen as a mere financial document but a reflection of their collective resolve to address the most critical needs of the long-suffering citizens.
He said in order to promote economic growth and development, the 2024 Budget should prioritise social welfare programmes to help reduce poverty and inequality. Equally important is job creation and youth empowerment in view of the large and ever-growing youth population.
He emphasized that failure to do this means failure to invest in the countries future.
Speaking further on infrastructure development, the Speaker said it is another critical area of importance, which is crucial for economic growth, adding that the biggest challenge, however, is balancing these priorities within the constraints of available resources.
“For the first time in our legislative history, the 10th House of Representatives created monitoring and evaluation committees to ensure effective implementation of the budget and Mr. President’s 8-Point Agenda among others. I am happy to report to Mr. President that the Legislative Agenda was on 14th November, 2023 unveiled to the Nigerian public through the chairmanship of the President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio.
“Mr. President, it is a well-known fact that millions of our constituents are living through incredibly difficult times. For this reason, they also look to the Tinubu-led government to provide quick and sustainable solutions.
“The antecedents of the President and your track record in governance inspire a lot of hope in Nigerians. Mr. President, it is for this reason that we cannot afford to fail Nigerians. If anyone can change the rot and chart a new course for Nigeria, IT IS YOU! I have no doubt whatsoever that we can measure up to the expectations of Nigerians through your visionary leadership and the commitment of the National Assembly.
“In view of this and the related challenge of a high level of public debt, the National Assembly will ensure that the 2024 budget includes concrete strategies for sustainable debt management, including measures to increase revenue and control expenditure.
“Specifically, the focus should be on raising more revenue through tax reform, fiscal reform, subsidy reform, foreign exchange convergence, and centralised revenue collection. In our recent engagement with MDAs on the MTEF, we emphasised the need for revenue-generating agencies to double their targets to meet the N18trn revenue projected in the budget.
“Mr. President, the effectiveness and legitimacy of fiscal policies depend to a very large extent on public support. As the People’s House and in line with our Legislative Agenda, the House of Representatives will convene the first national citizens’ budget town hall to harness public input and opinion on this budget. We are convinced that this will increase transparency and accountability, improve policymaking, and increase trust in the government.
“Public participation in the budgetary process has been shown to improve resource allocation and service delivery as well as a more stable and robust economy. By seeking input from citizens, we aim to understand their local needs and preferences better and allocate resources more effectively.
Speaking also Abbas said that the National Assembly will work to institutionalise pre-budget engagements with the executive to further improve and hasten the budget process.
He said though the House has already commenced interface with MDAs through the Sectoral Debates to understand the challenges facing government agencies and identify areas for legislative intervention, all of these efforts are geared towards ensuring that the House provide the necessary legislative support to the administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda.
Speaking on some challenges that have hampered the budget process in Nigeria, Abbas said, though the government budget is an important tool for economic management and promoting growth and development, it has generally not met the expectations of improved service delivery and development.
According to him, this has largely been due to challenges relating to budget enactment, budget implementation and budget oversight.
“The well-known gaps in the various stages of the budget process underscore the need for budget reforms, including altering relevant sections of the Constitution and existing laws to strengthen the budget process and transform our budget into an authentic tool for development. For this reason, I propose enacting a Budget Act to strengthen the budget process and promote development outcomes. This is a well-established practice in democracies across the world.
“Mr. President, let me, on behalf of my colleagues in the National Assembly, assure you that we will give this bill the utmost priority it deserves. While we would give it accelerated consideration, we will diligently scrutinise it alongside Nigerians to ensure that when it is passed, it will be a budget that best addresses the most critical needs of our people.
“Accordingly, we seek the cooperation of all heads of MDAs, especially during budget defense by committees. We shall thoroughly examine various aspects of the budget proposals, including economic feasibility, allocation and utilisation of funds and sustainability of proposed fiscal policies. This is essential for maintaining checks and balances, and ensuring that government spending aligns with national priorities and is conducted transparently and efficiently. Therefore, I urge all stakeholders to approach the deliberations on this budget with a sense of purpose and commitment to national development.
“Distinguished Senators and Honorable Members of the People’s House, we must proceed with the huge task ahead. The next couple of weeks will be tough and demanding for us. But I do not doubt our capacity to effectively and speedily discharge our constitutional mandate. We must ensure that the budget, when finally passed, meets the expectations of the people we represent. We must equally follow through the implementation process through our various oversight engagements.