The National Assembly has postponed the passage of 2016 budget indefinitely. Its initial plan was to pass the Appropriation Bill on February 25, but it seems that is not to be.
According to the lawmakers, the postponement is due to “discrepancies, errors and ambiguities” inherent in the budget proposal. Speaking at a joint press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Chairmen of the Appropriation Committees in both chambers of the National Assembly, Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon. Jubril Abdulmumin said it is no longer feasible to pass the 2016 budget proposal on February 25 as earlier scheduled.
Senator told pressmen,
We are here in connection with the ongoing process of the 2016 budget defense and because these two committees are saddled with the production of the final copies of the budget that would be passed by the two Houses for onward submission to Mr. President for his assent and subsequent implementation, and because with the observed instances that have been reported since the budget’s submission, there are a lot of controversies surrounding the budget.
Sen. Goje denied stated however, that the rumour about the sudden decision to postpone the approval being as a result of a clash between the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly.
We feel that we have to come here, interact with you and make some clarifications so that Nigerians will know the correct situation of things regarding the 2016 budget.
We designed a timetable for the consideration and passage of the budget and that particular timetable was that we will pass the budget on February 25, 2016.
But as you are all aware, a lot of issues have come up and gladly even the executive arm of government has also come out to accept the fact that there are a lot of errors in the budget.
Again, during the budget defence a lot of issues based on the padding of the budget arising from over-bloated overheads and in some instances, cases of over-bloated personnel cost arose.
But generally, there has been a lot of issues. The Appropriation Committees would look at these issues after the whole budget defence to do a very thorough work aimed at doing a proper clean up of the budget with all the stakeholders to enable us pass the budget that is implementable from the perspective of the legislature and also acceptable to the executive arm of the government.
So, in summary, the timetable for the passage of the budget is no longer realistic because the Appropriation Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly will need additional time to be able to do a thorough job for the 2016 budget.
We want to remove all ambiguities. We want to remove all padding. We want to produce a budget that is in line with the constitutional requirement.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole had, on Monday, disowned his ministry’s budget, saying “This was not what we submitted. We’ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there.”
However, there are speculations that the sudden change of mind on the passage of the budget was a subtle protest against last Friday’s judgment of the Supreme Court which threw out Senate President Bukola Saraki’s case and asked him to face trial for false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Over the week about 80 senators loyal to Saraki had met to discuss and claimed that the trial of Saraki before CCT was politically motivated.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier directed that the draft of budget proposal which was before the National Assembly be put on the website of the budget office so that Nigerians can read and make appropriate input as the government welcomes well-meaning criticism of government’s policies, its budget and expenditure.