President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has said that the country needs to prioritize human capital development in national spending even as it embarks on various infrastructure projects.
Saraki stated this when he declared opened a two-day public hearing on the 2018 budget, organized by the Joint National Assembly Committee on Appropriation.
The event is being attended by ministries, department and agencies (MDAs), international development partners, civil society organizations and other critical stakeholders.
Saraki noted that the public hearing on budget which is an initiative of the 8th National Assembly, has come to stay.
He said: “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 said.
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 86 billion naira, has yet to be committed,” Saraki said. “When the Speaker 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.
He noted that as a legislature, tye 8th National Assembly is acutely aware that modern democratic lawmaking requires the deliberate engagement of the people and that issues that matter most to the people should form the core objective of parliament.
He said: “And so, for the first time, the National Assembly is becoming the People’s Parliament – where all shades of opinions are ventilated and experts are also able to have the space to contribute to the fashioning of solutions that will endure.
“It is therefore my firm belief that, with your inputs and contributions at this Public Hearing, the 2018 Budget will deliver the envisioned socio-economic benefits to Nigerians in an all-inclusive manner.
“That is why we strongly encourage stakeholders’ participation in the process, especially as it relates to the provision of public services and equitable distribution of social benefits,” he said.