Senate leadership meets committees on 2017 budget
• Group faults N51b allocation to health sector
The Senate leadership will today meet its standing committees to facilitate the speedy passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill. Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan, told reporters yesterday that the meeting with the committee chairmen was to ensure a seamless budget process and avoid mistakes that created problems for the 2016 budget.
Also, Lawan yesterday met with the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, in the Presidential Villa to brief him on the progress made so far by the Upper Chamber in the consideration of the 2017 budget by the National Assembly.
Answering questions from State House correspondents after the meeting, Lawan said: “I’m here to meet the Acting President to brief him on what the Senate is doing on the Appropriation Bill 2017. You know we have suspended plenary for three weeks. The idea is to have ample time to focus on the appropriation bill. The committees will start to work from this week meeting the MDAs on the budget defence that they need to do.”
Osinbajo had earlier also met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in a closed-door.Dogara did not disclose his mission to the Presidency as he hurriedly left the Villa.
Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki had last Thursday announced that the leadership would meet with committee chairmen after plenary but the meeting was shifted to today.
It is expected that the meeting would lay the template for the budget defence with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). It would also draw the timetable for defence sessions.
The Senate had also suspended plenary for four weeks to allow committees concentrate on the budget preparations. It would resume on February 21. Meanwhile, critical stakeholders, comprising the primary health centres revitalisation support group, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday faulted the N51 billion allocation to the sector in the 2017 budget.
At a parley with the House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare, they warned that Nigeria could run into serious medical challenges during the year if the budgetary allocation to the sector was not reviewed upward.
The stakeholders warned that women and children who are the most vulnerable in the society could be most affected if the poor budgetary provision was sustained.
Chairman of House Committee on HealthCare Services, Mr. Chike John Okafor, spoke in the same vein, saying there was a huge drop in percentage of appropriation for the sector compared to that of previous years’ budget.
Okafor said the major problem in the sector was funding and that if the PHCs were revitalised, the pressure on the tertiary health centres would reduce. He added that the country required about N100 billion to ensure that PHCs were in good standing.
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