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  • Lawan: next year’s budget to focus on security, legacy projects

Taxes may go up next year as a result of the government’s plans to shore up revenue and drastically cut borrowings.×

Leakages are to be blocked and revenue-generating agencies are to be thoroughly supervised.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who made these known on Monday said the Executive is on the same page with the lawmakers on the way forward for the country in revenue generation and borrowing in 2022.

Lawan, who spoke to reporters at Aso Villa after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, said: “We had discussions on some other governance issues that have to do with making revenues in the country, especially for government at the federal and the state levels, and even local government. There are so many agencies of government that are not remitting their internally generated revenues and this is something that we have to address as stiffly as possible and as quickly as possible because we need to find a way of reducing the borrowings that we do.

“So, if there are areas that we can now get revenues that will help us reduce the amount of borrowing, then so be it and this is something that we all agree with Mr. President that we should continue to look at those areas that we need to improve on revenue generation and collection.

“Thank God, we are on the same page with Mr. President on all these issues,” he said.

Lawan said the National Assembly had started discussing the 2022 Budget with President Buhari to set priorities. He said the priority would be placed on funding security and ongoing legacy projects.

“We believe that the budget 2022 will be the icing on the cake, so to speak, that is to say that we have to make sufficient provision for the security agencies and also sufficient provisions for our legacy projects.

“We hope and our desire now is in tandem with what the Presidency wants, that is to ensure that the legacy projects are completed by next year by the grace of God. These are the major projects, like the second Niger Bridge, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway and so on. These projects will be completed next year and Mr. President is able to commission them for Nigerians to benefit.

“These are projects that we have to make significant or sufficient provisions in the 2022 budget, so that we’re able to complete them. They should be part of what will be part of the legacies Mr. President owes to this country in the area of infrastructure.”

Responding to a question on surrendering Boko Haram terrorists in the Northeast, the Senate President sounded a note of caution on how the process should be followed, saying it would be untidy to just write those coming out off without doing diligent profiling of their claims and their persons.

“Yes, I’m optimistic that not only Boko Haram, the insurgency because in addition to Boko Haram you have ISWAP and probably other tangential groups like that. I’m sure the new strategy by the current leadership of the armed forces are working. Boko Haram, having lost its leader and probably having lost so many commanders, some of them think they should just throw in the towel. Therefore, it’s one of those success stories of the fight against insurgency in the Northeast.

“We have asked for improvements in resources, we have asked for changing of guards in the area of those who were at the top of the echelon of the security services, particularly the armed forces and we have gotten that. So, I believe that this is one of the success stories, this is something that is real that is happening.

“What we need to do is to have a clearly defined national policy on how we deal with this because unless we have a strategy of dealing with this, we may be overwhelmed and it could deny us the opportunity of getting the best out of this surrendering.

“What do we need to do? We have to be prepared for the humanitarian resources that we have to make available.

“And before this administration leaves by the grace of God in 2023, the security situation would have been stabilized, far better than what it is today. That is one in the area of security”, he said.

Reacting to the $10 million bribery allegation, Lawan described it as both funny and serious, warning Nigerians against the abuse of the new found freedom of expression to destroy the leaders.

Lawan said the allegation, which claimed that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, was the facilitator of the bribery scandal, was an unwarranted and unprovable falsehood, which is capable of damaging the image of those it was targeted at.

“Recently somebody said $10 million was given to the Speaker and the Senate President to give to members of the National Assembly to pass 3% host community development fund. That is funny, but also very serious.

“I really want to take this opportunity to take exceptions to those kinds of unwarranted, unprovable, false and fake information being fed to the Nigerian public and the danger people will face with this is you cause unnecessary damage to the reputation of people.

“I had an occasion to take someone to court because of this kind of thing about three months ago, but Nigerians are better judges than anywhere else. So, the freedom of expression is there, probably more than anywhere in the world, but I want to caution that Nigerians should always think positive about their leaders and their administration and their governments and if they have issues they feel very strongly about, let them speak the truth and we are prepared to tell corrections that that we feel should be able to make us do better”, he said.

The Nation newspaper

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