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Senate, executive face-off threatens early passage of 2017 budget

Review... Another budget padding controversy looms

Contrary to its promise that it will pass the 2017 budget on or before the end of March, the Senate, last Tuesday again, failed to pass the Appropriation Bill. Instead, it embarked on a two-week Easter break.

While the House of Representatives’ Appropriation committee may have concluded work on the budget, the Senate if still dilly-dallying.

The Senate delay may not be unconnected to the rivalry between it and the executive as it has, in recent weeks, declined to consider memos from President Muhammadu Buhari over his refusal to implement some of its resolutions.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had in January, promised that the budget, which was submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari before a joint session of the National Assembly on the 15th of December, 2016, will be passed early in order to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), commence early implementation.

However, it was gathered that about eight committees were yet to submit their budget reports to Senator Danjuma Goje-led Appropriations Committee as at the time of filing in this report, despite an ultimatum issued by Saraki to that effect.

The source who confirmed to Ripples Nigeria, did not however, give names of the committees and their chairmen, who are yet to submit their reports to the Appropriation Committee.

The 2016 Appropriation Act was signed into law on the 6th of May, 2016 by President Buhari. The lifespan of the budget is expected to expire on the 5th of May, 2017.

Chairman of the Senate committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, in an earlier interview, promised that the budget may be passed before the expiration of the current one.

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He had said: “Last year, when we were producing this 2016 Appropriation Bill, we realized that at the end of each year, there were usually requests for an extension of the budget from the executive. To avoid that, we decided to incorporate this new thing.

“In the 2016 Appropriation Act, which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, clause 11 of it says that “in line with the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, this bill will run for a period of 12 months, starting from the day it is assented into law.”

“President Buhari signed this bill into law on the 6th of May, 2016. This means this budget will run from that date up to the midnight of 5th of May, 2017. Unless of course if the Act is amended or altered as deemed fit by the National Assembly.

“As far as the law is concerned, there is no need for any extension or mop up by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The mop they usually do will now be illegal. Except the National Assembly, in conjunction with the executive, amend this law, this is the position of the 2016 budget.

“We do not have to extend the 2016 budget. If May comes and there is need to extend, then we can do otherwise. I believe before that date, the 2017 budget will be passed. For now, this is the position of the law.”

As at the time the Senate will resume from its Easter break on the 25th of April, the 2016 budget will be ten days away from its expiration date.‎ It is unclear whether or not the National Assembly will pass the 2017 budget before the expiration of the current document.

Meanwhile, Saraki is still pleading with heads of the various standing committees to reach out to the Appropriation Committee chairman, Senator Goje, to resolve grey areas of their various budget reports, before it commences final work‎ on the budget.

Saraki said the Red Chamber was running against time to pass the 2017 budget, as earlier promised.

Saraki, had recently, revealed that the Appropriation committee would go ahead to consider original estimates proposed by the executive should any committee fail to comply with the Upper Legislative Chamber’s deadline.

He had said: “All committees yet to complete work on the 2017 budget proposal are hereby requested to submit their reports unfailingly today to the Appropriations committee.

“These committees numbering over twenty there about, should endeavour to submit their reports, or the appropriations committee will be left with no option but to consider original estimates sent in by the executive.”

Ripples Nigeria gathered that the House of Representatives’ Appropriation committee has concluded work on the budget, unlike the Senate.

It was learnt that the Lower Legislative Chamber is deferring in order to give the Senate more time to round off so as to pass the budget.
By Ehisuan Odia…



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