20 February 2015, Abuja – The House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Budget and Research made it clear on Thursday that the National Assembly would not approve the $65 set as the crude oil benchmark price for the 2015 budget proposal by the Federal Government.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, who spoke in Abuja, said at best, the National Assembly would settle for a benchmark price of $50 per barrel of crude oil or slightly above that.
He stated that his committee had reviewed the 2015 budget proposal by paring it with those of some oil producing countries and came to the conclusion that the $65 benchmark price was not realistic.
For example, he said Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela, which had better micro-economic performance than Nigeria, pegged their budget benchmarks at $60.
Bamidele argued that it was incomprehensible how Nigeria, which was behind these countries, settled for $65.
He said, “These countries even planned ahead by passing their 2015 budgets before the prices started falling. The National Assembly will not work with the $65. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela have $60. Why will Nigeria go for $65?
“The benchmark that we will approve will be in the region of $50 and not more.”
The lawmaker from Ekiti State spoke as the House said on Thursday that the 17-member special committee it set up on Wednesday on the budget would come up with a workable benchmark.
The House spokesman, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said members agreed to set up the committee because there was the need to hold broader consultations on the budget with the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu.
The development came as the House passed a resolution asking the Federal Government to hand a copy of the audit report on the $20bn said to be missing from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to members.
The House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who moved a motion on the report, noted that since it was submitted to the government last month by an international firm of auditors, not much had been heard about it.
“The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency, make the full report of the audit available to the House immediately,” the motion read in part.
The session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, passed the motion in a majority voice vote.