The Nigerian parliament has re-emphasised the need for the country to prioritise human capital development in national spending while also embarking on the development of various infrastructural projects.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki stated this while declaring open on Tuesday, a two-day public hearing on the 2018 budget, organised by the Joint National Assembly Committee on Appropriation.
The event is being attended by ministries, department and agencies (MDAs), international development partners, civil society organisations and other critical stakeholders.
Senator Saraki noted that the public hearing on budget which is an initiative of the 8th National Assembly, has come to stay.
According to him, “We acknowledge Nigeria’s huge infrastructural deficit, as well as the need to expand planned expenditure.
“However, you will agree with me that, while it is important to achieve equity and balance in the spread of development projects around the country, we must also prioritise human capital development.
“It is in this vein that the National Assembly will prioritize expenditure on critical health and education facilities as well as soft infrastructure.”
He decried a situation where the provision in the National Health Act that 1% of the consolidated revenue fund be set aside to adequately fund national health programmes is yet to be implemented.
“This funding, which amounts to N86 billion, is yet to be committed,” Saraki said.
“When the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara and I met with Bill Gates last week, the emphasis was on health and it is something we should take very seriously indeed, especially as the 1% resolution would go a long way in boosting basic maternal and child health immunization services as well as local and rural community health in this country.”
He stated that there is the need to ensure real value-for-money in government spending as well as giving priority to spending on locally made goods.
“The Made-in-Nigeria initiative, with particular regard to government procurements, is already the thrust of a significant law passed by the 8th National Assembly and which has the added advantage of helping to revamp our industrial base.
“This is one sure way of creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs, encouraging private sector partnerships and creating jobs, especially for the youth,” he said.
The Dr. Saraki, who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly, noted that as a legislature, the 8th National Assembly is acutely aware that modern democratic law-making requires the deliberate engagement of the people and that issues that matter most to the people should form the core objective of parliament.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, in his remarks, said that the National Assembly would never bow to any pressure or blackmail in abandoning the zonal intervention projects.
He described the project as tool with which legislators ensured equity in allocating projects nationwide.
Mr. Dogara said though the instrumentality of zonal intervention projects had been “grossly misunderstood and terribly maligned” it did not change the fact that it had brought development across all federal constituencies.
“This is mostly by those who are deliberately ignorant and have concocted their own concept of constituency projects which they apply as their yardstick of measurement,” he said.
The Speaker added that if not for Zonal Intervention Projects, many communities in Nigeria would never have enjoyed any form of Federal Government patronage.