Teddy Oscar, Abuja
The 2014 Budget could be heading into crisis just 24 hours, after the speaker of the House of representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, had constituted the conference committee that would meet with the Senate to harmonise the oil benchmark price for the 2014-2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
Hon. Samson Okwu, who faulted the composition of the committee, observed that the parliament had earlier rejected the MTEF report that had been submitted to it by the same committee that was set up to look the framework.
While drawing the attention of his colleagues to the House’ earlier decision, which was predicated on the inability of the two chambers to agree on a common benchmark for the oil price, Okwu argued that there was, therefore, the need for the House to change the entire membership of the team to meet with their Senate counterpart during the rescheduled conference committee.
“The leadership of the committee had rejected and disassociated itself from the report of the committee and voted against it. Today, the same persons have again been nominated to go into a conference committee with the Senate, what will be the outcome of the outcome?,” he asked.
Presiding over the session, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker of the House, noted the observations brought on the matter, but declined to uphold the objections raised by the member.
In the weekly media briefing with newsmen, Hon. Victor Ogene, deputy chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, who said that the six-man membership of the House is going into the conference committee with its Senate counterpart with a fresh mandate, hinted that the leadership of the House still has 100 percent confidence in the conference committee members.
It would be recalled that the House had adopted $79 as benchmark for oil price, while the Senate approved $76.5.
Sequel to the alleged failure of both chambers to agree on a common price, President Goodluck Jonathan had shelved the presentation of the 2014 Budget proposal insisting that he could only do that when there is a consensus.
In a letter to speaker of the House, Tambuwal, Jonathan noted that “whereas the Senate has approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) based on the benchmark of $76.5 per barrel, the Honourable House of Representatives has used a benchmark of $79 per barrel, it is infeasible for me to present the budget in absence of harmonized position on MTEF.
“In the circumstance, it has become necessary to defer the presentation of the 2014 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly until such a time when both respective chambers would have harmonized their position on MTEF. It is my hope that this will be in the shortest possible time.”