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NASS Goes Into Budget Defence Sessions

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The National Assembly on October 21 commenced assessment of the 2021 Appropriation Bill, which was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari in a joint session of the Assembly on October 8. Both chambers of the Assembly have suspended plenary to scrutinise the budget proposals, with ministries, departments and agencies of government appearing before committees of the Assembly to defend their respective budgets. Following this, the defence sessions of several committees handling critical matters have been brought to the fore.

At a session of the Senate Committee on Power, it was discovered that no fund was allocated for the Mambilla power project in the 2021 budget; raising questions about the government’s prioritisation of the project, which has dragged on for several years. The hydroelectric power project is expected to be the largest power generation installation in Nigeria if implemented. Meanwhile, the committee’s counterpart in the House of Representatives criticised the categorisation of electricity consumers in the country into bands, by electricity distribution companies. According to the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Magaji Aliyu, the development constitutes a form of segregation and inhibits equitable distribution of power to consumers across Nigeria.

Nigeria has continued to grapple with power supply for decades. Over the past several weeks, the Federal Government suspended the implementation of a new service-reflective electricity tariff system it had previously unveiled, following threats of industrial strike action by trade unions. However, the government has approved the resumption of the revised tariff regime from November 2020, while announcing the commencement of the distribution of free electricity metres to serve an estimated 30 million consumers, to address the deficit of 6.5 million metres in Nigeria.

In a defence session of the Senate Committee on Aviation on October 27, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika revealed that the Federal Government’s plan for the aviation sector is topped by the take-off of a national carrier for Nigeria in 2021, even as it undertakes the construction of 10 new airports nationwide. Meanwhile, the committee conducted a public hearing for six aviation sector bills from November 2 to November 4.

The House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services at its session called on Nigerians to scrutinise the kind of drugs they purchase and consume following the looting of a warehouse belonging to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), where confiscated drugs were stored. However, the committee rejected the budget presentations of four agencies under its supervision, describing the proposals as poorly prepared.

The Senate Committee on Interior suspended its budget defence session, owing to the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, which affected some of the agencies under its purview.