- As NASS suspends passage of 2016 Budget indefinitely
The National Assembly yesterday said its earlier date of February 25 envisaged for the passage of the 2016 budget is no longer realistic due to discrepancies observed in the appropriation bill. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje and his House of Representatives colleague, Honourable Abdulmumuni Jubril, respectively failed to set a new date for the passage of the 2016 money bill, citing huge irregularities inherent in the fiscal policy document.
At a joint press briefing yesterday, the committees said the budget as presently submitted is not implementable, declaring: “We are here in connection with the ongoing processing of the 2016 budget defence and because these two committees are the ones 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.
“Because of the observed instances that are being reported from the beginning of the budget submission – a lot of controversies surrounding the budget – we feel that we have to come here, interact with you, 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 for February 25, 2016 but as you are all aware, a lot of issues have come up and gladly so. Even the Executive arm of government has also come out to accept the fact that there has been a lot of errors in the budget”, Honourable Abdulmumuni Jubril who first spoke on the issue, declared.
Senator Goje, who complemented his colleague on the budget loop, explained that, “during the budget defence, a lot of issues based on padding of the budget arose from over bloated overhead and in some instances, cases of over bloated personnel cost. But generally, there have been lots of issues. The appropriation committees would look at these issues after the whole budget defence, to do a very thorough work aimed at a proper clean up of the budget.”
According to Goje, the committees will “liaise with all the stakeholders to enable us pass the budget that is implementable, a budget that is good 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 appropriation committees of both chambers of the National Assembly need additional time to be able to do a thorough job for the 2016 budget,” he explained.
The joint committees also acknowledged that, the budget was thrown back to it based on some ambiguities, insisting:”We want to remove the ambiguities; we want to remove all paddings. We want to produce a budget that is in line with the constitutional requirement.
“Again, in terms of capital expenditure, there are complaints coming from different quarters arising from the imbalance from the capital allocation and of course disagreement among the ministers and the civil servants in the various ministries that we have witnessed during the period of budget defence.
“These altogether form enough bases for us to sit down and ensure that a thorough job is done before the budget is passed,” he contended.
Senate rejects N200m allocation by ministry
In the same vein, the N200 million allocation demanded by the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the 2016 budget for the treatment of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, was yesterday rejected by the Senate.
Also, the Senate Committee on Gas Resources turned down the ministry’s request for allocation of additional N200 million for the review of the gas masterplan in the country.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Jamila Shuarau, while defending the 2016 budget of the ministry before the committee, had said it needed N200 million for the passage of the PIB in the National Assembly.
Shuarau, while making presentation at the committee’s sitting, insisted that the amount was needed for the treatment of the petroleum bill.
But chairman of the committee, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North East), along with other members said the allocation was not necessary because, according to him, the bill was already with the National Assembly.
“This bill is already with the National Assembly. So what do we need the money for? I don’t think you need the money. This could be one of the reasons why we have so much deficit in this year’s budget. Unless you can justify this expenditure, we need to do away with this”, Senator Albert said.
The committee members who spoke at the meeting concurred with the chairman that the bill did not need additional funding for it to be passed.
The committee also disagreed with the ministry officials over the N200 million proposed in the 2016 budget for the review of the Nigerian Gas Masterplan.
It discovered that funding request for the plan had been a recurring figure in previous budgets.
“You cannot be asking for funds to review what you have not even implemented”, Senator Albert said, adding that the only problem with PIB was that there was no law backing it up.
Briefing the committee further, Shuarau, said the country could not meet her gas need because, according to her, many exigencies worked against the success of the programme.
One of the exigencies, she said, was the $8 billion court judgement procured against the ministry by an investor who she could not mention.