National Assembly Recess May Affect President Buhari’s Election Funding Request
The National Assembly will on Thursday embark on its two-month annual recess but the lawmakers have yet to act on the virement and supplementary budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
With both the Senate and House of Representatives holding plenary only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it means the lawmakers have three days left to pass the virement and supplementary budget.
The executive bill still has to be considered, debated and passed for the second reading. Already, The PUNCH had reported that several senators were against the presidential request.
It will then be referred to the Committee on Appropriations, which will scrutinise the estimates and may hold meetings with other committees and officials from the executive.
The committee will then present a report that will be considered, debated upon and passed for third reading.
Speaking on Saturday, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, said the communication from the President would pass through the routine processes.
Murray-Bruce said, “It will go to the Committee on Appropriations. It is when they bring their report to us that we can debate it. It is a request for virement and additional funding – supplementary budget.
“It is after the Appropriations Committee have scrutinised it that we will debate it on the floor and see the merits and its demerits. Then, we will vote. If it does not make any sense, we will vote against it.”
Asked if the lawmakers could cover all the processes before embarking on recess on Thursday, he said, “It depends on how much time the President of the Senate will give Appropriations to look at it. We still have Tuesday to Thursday. If they bring it to us before then, we will look at it.
“We are being objective; we are not against the executive. If they give us a document that makes sense, we will pass it. We are not here to shut down the government, but they should also have some respect for us. We are not puppets.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, dismissed the claims that the lawmakers inserted projects into the 2018 budget.
Urhoghide said new projects were introduced into the budget based on an agreement between the legislature and the executive.
He said the agreement was reached at a meeting attended by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, and Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.
He pointed out that the projects were introduced as a result of the increment of the oil benchmark from the proposed $45 per barrel to $51.
He also pointed out that the extra fund was shared by the three arms of the government, while certain ministries under the executive got more funding for their projects.
The lawmaker said, “For instance the over N500bn that was realised from the jacking up of the oil benchmark — that is where the money is coming from — the executive and the legislature sat down to decide how the money was to be allocated. The National Assembly did not take the decision single-handedly. There was an agreement.”
The House of Representatives has also yet to decide on the document.
When contacted on Saturday, the Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Orker Jev, said that his committee had not received any instructions from the leadership of the House to schedule the request for debate.
“The leadership has not given me any directives.
“Until there is a directive from the speaker to schedule it, the committee does not take such decisions on its own,” Jev said.
Jev’s committee is responsible for planning the timetable for the business of the House.
The Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, had said individual members would not be able to gauge the official position of the House until the letter was debated.
Buhari had, last Tuesday, presented a N228bn supplementary budget to the National Assembly, asking the legislature to re-allocate part of the N578bn voted to the projects inserted into the 2018 Appropriation Act by the lawmakers to fund the exercise.
It was reported on Thursday that some members of the Senate declared their opposition to the request.
The lawmakers made it known that they would kick against it when the matter was presented for consideration.