National Assembly battles deadline as Tuesday’s budget passage looks uncertain


National Assembly leaders
The planned passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill on Tuesday by the National Assembly is now uncertain, Owojela’s Blog learnt on Saturday.

The National Assembly had set April 24 for the passage of the national budget.
Ahead of the date, the joint Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives were expected to present the report on the budget in the two chambers on April 19 (Wednesday last week).
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, had, on March 21, 2018, said, “The consideration and passage of the budget will be on April 24. The committees will submit their report on April 19. This will be a harmonised report.”
The N8.612tn budget has been held up at the National Assembly since November 7, 2017, when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the estimates to a joint session of the Senate and the House.
However, the National Assembly and the executive have engaged each other in a blame game for the past few months over the delay in passing the budget.
At the Senate, the Committee on Appropriations is still compiling and harmonising reports by the standing committees (sub-committees) on the budgets of ministries, departments and agencies they supervise.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had, penultimate Wednesday, said the Committee on Appropriations should present its report for consideration and passage by the chamber this week.
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the committee, Senator Danjuma Goje and Senator Sunday Ogbuoji, respectively, could not be reached on the pace of work on the budget on Saturday.
The Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, also expressed uncertainty over the Tuesday’s target.
Asked of the feasibility of passing the budget on Tuesday, he said, “I don’t know. All I know is that the Appropriations Committee is meeting, everybody is meeting. My committee, Works, met on Wednesday. We have concluded with ours and it has been transmitted to Appropriations. A lot of committees have transmitted to Appropriations.
“We may or may not meet the deadline, but we are working very hard to make sure that we get it done as quickly as possible.”
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, also said work was ongoing on the bill.
“It is our desire to pass it then (on Tuesday) and I don’t want to start thinking that it may not be passed. We are still communicating and working on it,” he added.
When asked why the committee did not present its report last week, Ogbuoji stated, “We are working.” When asked when the report would be presented, he said, “When we are ready.”
Saraki had, on April 10, said the Committee on Appropriations was expected to present a harmonised report on the 2018 Appropriation Bill last week, but the report had yet been presented.
Again on April 12, Saraki insisted on the April 14 deadline issued to standing committees to represent their reports to the Committee on Appropriations.
Saraki said the deadline would not be extended, noting that the Senate would not be held to ransom by the 20 sub-committees who had yet to present their reports to the Committee on Appropriations.

Mace-snatching won’t stop budget passage –Reps

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said the mace-snatching incident at the Senate has no connection with the 2018 budget.
It noted that the attack on the Senate by thugs last week was an isolated incident, which did not stop the National Assembly from carrying out its legislative duties.
The House said the budget would be passed before the end of April as already announced by the legislature.
The Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, explained, “The budget will be passed.  The incident has nothing to do with the budget.”
In a related development, a group, under the aegis of Companion of Buhari Initiative, on Saturday, condemned the National Assembly for the delay in the passage of the 2018 budget.
The group described the delay as a ploy to inflict hardship on Nigerians because some government policies would not be implemented without the budget.
In a communiqué at the end of its general meeting in Calabar, Cross River State, signed by the General Coordinator and Secretary-General, Chief Utum Eteng and Dr. Adalikwu Adie, respectively, the group also condemned the leadership of the National Assembly for victimising those perceived to be in support of Buhari.
The communiqué read in part, “We condemn the undue delay by the National Assembly in passing the 2018 budget submitted by the President since November 2017. We see the delay as a ploy to inflict hardship on the people in view of the fact that some government policies cannot be implemented without the budget.
“We also condemn the recent tactics by the leadership of the National Assembly in banning Parliamentary Support Group and suspending members of the National Assembly perceived to be loyal to Mr. President.
“We describe it as a ploy to intimidate other members of the Senate who support the non-veto of the Electoral Act (amendment) seeking to re-order the sequence of elections in the country.”
While throwing its weight behind the second-term bid of the President, the group said it was pleased with the recent appointment of Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), as the spokesperson for the Buhari Campaign Organisation for the 2019 presidential election.

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