Peoples Digest Online- Legislators have delayed forwarding the 2017 budget to the presidency for assent after allegations of illegal alterations were raised by some members yesterday, Daily Trust has learnt. The two chambers of National Assembly passed the budget Thursday after several months of delay. However, it was gathered that the allegations are already creating ripples among some senators. Many of them are said to be calling for the document to be properly scrutinised and the illegal insertions weeded out before it is presented to the presidency for assent. Accusing fingers are being pointed at the Senate works committee as being responsible for the alterations lately discovered in the budget.
The committee is headed by Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano) who is said to be outside the country at the moment and therefore could not be reached for comment. Some senators claim projects approved for their constituencies are now missing in the budget just passed by the National Assembly. Senators are also piqued that the works committee inserted into the budget projects for Trunk B and Trunk C roads which are entirely the responsibilities of the states and local governments. “I know of some senators that have complained bitterly about it. He (Gaya) inserted even local governments’ roads in the budget. There are instances that state roads were also inserted. How can one do that? Those roads are the exclusive rights of states and local governments.
“Again, some senators complained that he tempered with their proposals for federal road projects domiciled in their senatorial districts. This is something that they’re already looking at even at the Senate level before forwarding the document to the Executive for assent,” a source familiar with the matter told Daily Trust yesterday. “This is what is delaying the budget submission. But besides that, the National Assembly needs to have a clean copy without mistakes before sending it to the Executive,” the source added.
When our correspondents sought to know if the same challenge obtains in the House of Representatives, the source said no. Another source said hopefully, all issues would be resolved within this week and a clean copy transmitted to the acting president for assent. One lawmaker said House members were currently discussing a new sharing formula for constituency projects adopted by the leadership of the House of Reps, which surrendered N5 billion, out of its traditional N20bn, to the rest of members. This, he said, could bring about further delays. “You know they (leadership) used to take N20bn, but this time around they took only N15bn and left N5bn for members. So, the sharing formula is still being handled to avoid any rancour among members,” the lawmaker said.
The spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger) was unavailable for comments as he was said to be attending a meeting last night when our correspondent called him. Attempts to get reaction of the House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), were not successful as he was said to be away in South Africa for a Pan-African Parliament assignment. Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, also confirmed the budget had not been transmitted to the executive. “It is not yet transmitted but I’m in contact with the National Assembly authorities and management. They have confirmed that they are certifying page by page of the document. It will be ready within a very short period, “he said in a phone interview. Osinbajo meets ministers, Emefiele over budget funding
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday convened a meeting of the National Economic Management Team (NEMT) to review the 2017 budget. This is even as the details of the budget, passed by the National Assembly on Thursday, are yet to be transmitted to the executive. The lifespan of the 2016 budget has since May 5 come to an end. Our correspondent learnt that the meeting, which was held at the Vice President’s wing of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, discussed the funding of the passed 2017 budget.
The National Economic Management Team, headed by Osinbajo, is the Federal Government’s think-thank responsible for the formulation of the nation’s economic policy direction. The National Assembly had jerked up the 2017 budget from N7.298 trillion earlier proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari last December to N7.441 trillion. They also raised the proposed oil benchmark from $42.5 to $44.5 per barrels. Yesterday’s meeting was attended by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, Budget and National Planning Minister Udoma Udo Udoma, Trade Industry and Investment Minister Okechukwu Enalemah, Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu and Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibrin.
Also in attendance were the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele as well as the directors-general of the Debt Management Office, the Budget Office of the Federation, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council and the National Bureau of Statistics, among others. A government official, who was at the meeting that lasted over three hours, told our correspondent that the session brainstormed on how to make funds available for the budget after the presidential assent. The official, however, stressed that the Presidency was still awaiting official transmission of the budget from the National Assembly. “The meeting discussed the funding of the 2017 budget. It is on how to make sure that once the budget is signed, the resources that will be utilised to fund it are available. The meeting also discussed how funds will be released.
“The budget is still in the National Assembly. We are still waiting for the formal transmission of the budget document that was passed last week,” the official said.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, also confirmed via Twitter that the meeting reviewed major issues including the 2017 budget.