How Reps will make sure 2024 budget meet goals – Reps Philip Agbese

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Recently, President Bola Tinubu presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly. However, the Appropriation Bill christened “Budget of Renewed Hope” has generated diverse reactions. While members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have hailed the budget, the opposition says the budget is worthless.

However, Deputy spokesman of the House of Representatives, Phillip Agbese, in this interview, says President Tinubu means well with the budget. Nevertheless, Agbese, who represents

Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State, added that the House will ensure an effective oversight of the budget, when passed into law, so that it can impact positively on the citizenry.

The 2024 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by President Bola Tinubu, recently, has generated diverse reactions, with the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) dismissing it as a budget of hopelessness, and urging the parliament to reject it, how would you react to that?

It is good that President Bola Tinubu has within a record time, upon assumption of office put together this document called the 2024 appropriation bill. It is also true that the document is now before the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. I must equally appreciate the fact that the National Assembly has commenced immediate work to give life to the document, in order to become a working tool for the country. And in order to attract development and prosperity to the nation; that much we commend Mr. President.

From every indication and perusal of the document before the various committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, it is very obvious that it is indeed the people’s budget. We have seen a document that is aimed at addressing the issue of deficit in critical infrastructure. We have gone further to see the extra budgetary allocation to the Education ministry. And we are equally taking a cursory look at government’s best intention in providing healthcare services to our people. So, if you ask me, I will say that yes, Mr. President is not just on track, but he’s a man who understand clearly why the masses of our country decided to bestow on him the mandate to lead the country at this point in time.

I always find it very difficult to talk about the President; going to the fact that he is the President and head of one arm of government and we are here. So, it’s just like what happened in the scripture, when John the Baptist said to Jesus Christ that I am not fit to lace the shoes. However, by the authority of my people, those that voted me to be here, I strongly believe that the era of good things happening to all of us has come.

No one expects the opposition to pour encomiums on Mr President; knowing full well that they are still suffering from the loss at the Supreme Court. Yes.

The President has done well. Individuals and even our foreign partners, have all commended the President, to say yes, this is indeed a man of vision and man of foresight. That much has been established.

Now to call the document a budget of hopelessness, I have no issues to join with anybody. Because I didn’t come to the office with issues, and I have no issues to fight with anybody. I can tell you that that document will do all of us, irrespective of our various political parties, good .

I am very sure that when the said political party made that comment, I am not sure if they had interfaced with their elected representatives in the parliament; at the time they made that statement. Because further scrutiny of the document, which is currently ongoing, from the document that all of us have seen, it is crystal clear that Mr President means well for this country. And our duty as parliamentarians is to see how we can enforce strict oversight; to ensure that every single penny spelt out in that document is used in the overall interest of our suffering masses.

It is a known fact that irrespective of the political affiliation or your ethnic leaning, as far as this country is concerned, the problems that are militating against us are united. Our problems are united.

You are trying to solve the problem of bad roads, schools are breaking down. You cannot really fight insecurity where there are no good roads. Even the military they need to be able to move with the equipment to move down to the theater of operations. These problems are united.

Your family member is sick, you want to rush the person to the hospital, you can’t drive as you ought to because the road is bad. So, if our problems as a nation have decided to be united against us, I think it’s high time, we also as leaders of this country get united against those problems, and I think that is exactly what the 10th House of Representatives under the leadership of Rt Hon Talujeen Abbas, is doing.

Where eight political parties from 360 federal constituencies representing 774 local governments here as far as the countries concerned, representing 36 states as far as this country is concerned, have come together and adopted a document called the Legislative Agenda of the 10th House of Representatives.

So, if we have adopted that document, that working document, and members of our political parties, who are outside the Parliament are throwing unnecessary jabs, then it means that they do not understand the reason why they have voted us into office. It is to represent them. It is to protect their interests. It is to promote whatever economic interests that’s available that God has given to us as a country.

This budget, the budget before us today would help, if fully implemented, to address the issue of insecurity. It will be able to touch on herders/ farmers clashes. The document, if fully implemented, will be able to resolve the issue of ASUU Strike. Mind you that there are provisions in the budget to enhance the living standard of workers, as far as this country is concerned, and we all know the critical roles that workers play in every society.

In the words of Abubakar Bichi ( House Chairman on Appropriation ), he told the civil society that this is your budget. I think this budget is not Asiwaju’s budget, it is the budget of the masses of our country. Yes, it is their budget. Not even my own budget. It is their budget.

How far is the House ready to go by way of ensuring proper scrutiny of the budget, especially with the plan to pass the Appropriation Bill before the end of the year?

The practice of running the Parliament is the committee system. That is why committees are very important in parliamentary business. So, now when you have these committees from inception, you must ensure that you put square pegs in square holes. That is exactly what Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas has done from the initial stage. Budget could be very tedious and difficult to understand if you’re not an expert in that field and one reason why the rest of the world envy Africa, particularly, Nigeria is the fact that whatever talent or gift that you are looking for can easily be found in Nigeria.

When we came on board, the Right Honorable speaker, saw everybody and ask himself how do I bring these people together to work for the common good and interests of the Nigerian people and one of the things he did was to first and foremost address the issue of professionalism, expertise and experience in constituting the leadership of our committees.

Because if you don’t get the leadership right, that parliament is doomed. But because of his Intellect and his foresight, he was able to carry out a meticulous background check on everybody. And to ensure that they were placed in the accurate and proper positions in line with their philosophy, in line with their vision.

In the House of Representatives today, Nigerians are beginning to reap the good fruits of that exercise. Today, the budget is here. We want to pass the budget as quickly as possible. And at the same time, we have capable men and women voted into parliament with the necessary experience. You know, to help in addressing this issue of the budget.

What is your take on the calls for a further amendment of the Electoral Act?

Nigeria’s democracy is still a work in progress. Even America has not got it completely right. We have seen this issue of accusations that a certain president in America won as a result of interference by another sovereign nation using technology. And America today is regarded all over the globe as bastion of democracy.

We cannot fold our hands and say that the Electoral Act should continue to remain so. It will not do the country any good. It will not. There’s also no country that’s not ready to improve on her electoral system. And I think that Nigeria as a country should not be seen to be in isolation. So electoral reform, as far as our country is concerned, is of great concern to the House of representatives. We want to see our laws, on areas where we can still improve on the current electoral system, amended, and asserted to by Mr. President.