• Budget 2017, recession exit strategies, PIB to get priority

Preparation and processing of the 2017 Budget Bill, devising best legislative strategies for exiting the economic recession as well as the conclusion of work on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, are key issues that would be given maximum priority upon resumption of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
This emerged just as the National Assembly announced on Tuesday that it had postponed the resumption of its two Houses from September 13 to September 20, 2016.
The shift in resumption, it was learnt, was to allow senators and members of the House of Representatives observe the Eid-El-Kabir celebrations.
Confirming the shift in resumption date, clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori in a statement urged senators and House members to comply with the September 20 new resumption date.
Omolori’s two-paragraph statement captioned ‘Postponement of Resumption Date’ read:
“This is to inform all distinguished senators and honourable members of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the resumption date of both Houses in plenary has been rescheduled from Tuesday, 13th September, 2016, to Tuesday, 20th September, 2016.
“All distinguished senators and honourable members are by this notice requested to resume sitting in plenary on Tuesday, 20th September, 2016, by 10am prompt.”
A key assignment awaiting the National Assembly is the preparation and processing of the 2017 Appropriation Bill.
A lawmaker disclosed that the presidency was expected to submit the 2017 to 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP, before the resumption of the two chambers of the National Assembly later this month.
The Federal Executive Council, FEC, had in August this year approved the 2017-2019 MTEF and FSP, in which it pegged the crude oil benchmark for the 2017 budget at $42.5.
The leadership of the National Assembly, according to sources, had already resolved to process the 2017 budget bill in such a manner that would be of great assistance in resolving the current economic crisis in the country.
Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma in justifying the adoption of $53.50 as benchmark had declared that, “Oil price benchmark, we intend to use $42.50 as a reference price in 2017. We are projecting $45 in 2018 and $50 in 2019. So we are keeping to the very conservative in terms of the reference price of crude oil even though we are expecting it to go higher than this but we are keeping to an extremely conservative price scenario.
“In terms of oil production, we are keeping to the same level of this year for 2017 and that is 2.2 million barrels per day. For 2018, 2.3 million barrels per day, for 2019 2.4 million barrels per day,” he stated.
On GDP growth, Udoma said, “In terms of growth rate, we are targeting in 2017 a three per cent growth rate, 2018 a 4.26 per cent growth rate and 2019 a 4.04 per cent.
“The reason 2019 is slightly lower than 2018 is because that is an election year and usually in an election year there are uncertainties; we have also made provision for that.”
He also disclosed that government was going to adopt N290 to $1, adding that the N290 to $1 was a fair estimate from the Central Bank.
However, the leadership of each of the chambers, it was further learnt, has put lawmakers on the alert on the need to devise legislative strategies for combating the increasing challenges facing the country’s economy, which have worsened the living conditions of the people.
According to findings, the National Assembly will immediately upon resumption initiate debate in both Houses that would produce legislative actions or measures for getting the country out of the recession.
Ahead of the resumption date, some senators have spoken on how the federal government could take the country out of the economic mess.
Deeply worried by the poor state of the economy which has brought unprecedented hardship and hunger on the masses of the country, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent and drastic measures, including the immediate sack of three prominent members of his economic team as the solution-precedent to reboot the ailing economy.
In a statement in Abuja, Melaye said the president must shake up his cabinet, and accused most of the members of gross incompetence, inexcusable ineptitude and a distressing lack of capacity to deliver on the mandate of their ministries/agencies.
Those to face the axe immediately if the economy must be effectively rebooted to deliver on the ‘Change’ agenda of the present administration, in the estimation of Melaye, include the Ministers of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma, and governor of the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele.
“At the moment, it must be crystal clear to all discerning minds that the president’s widely-acclaimed magical body language has lost its presumed aura and efficacy. His no-nonsense demeanour is equally neither instilling fear nor commanding respect and loyalty from amongst his cabinet members. It is therefore obvious that the time for barking is over; now is the time to bite and boot out all those who have demonstrated, in the past several months, a crass lack of capacity to effectively carry out the functions of their offices”, Melaye declared.
He further stressed that “the Finance Minister has not only displayed gross incompetence on the Job; she also lacks the basic and rudimentary grasp of economic fundamentals necessary to run a critical sector of the Nigerian economy like the Finance Ministry. It is time for her to go now and pave way for a qualified and experienced person to steer the Nigerian economy away from the dark woods it has sunk presently under her stewardship.”
On Udoma, Melaye stated : “To be sure, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma is a very charismatic man, an accomplished lawyer, and a quintessential gentleman with a fairly untainted reputation. In everyday parlance, he is a good man. But the critical job of Budget and National Planning Minister for a huge country like Nigeria, with her prevailing economic challenges, requires much more than being a good man with a great personality.
“It is for someone with the relevant qualification, professional knowledge and experience in public sector finance, development economics, strategic thinking, budgetary planning and management. As a lawyer, accomplished in this field as he is, Udoma’s appointment to that position is nepotism taken to very ridiculous heights, and a classic case of putting round pegs in square holes it will and can never fit. It is akin to saddling a carpenter with a tailor’s responsibility. The outcome under the circumstances, as has become evidently clear, is bound to be catastrophic for the economy. President Buhari must therefore do the needful now by relieving Udoma of this huge burden that is constituting a clog to the revival of the Nigerian economy,” the lawmaker declared.
In a separate interview, Senate spokesman, Senator Saabi Abdullahi Aliu hinted that the Senate would upon resumption set out to resolve the contentious issues that had been stalling the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which had been in the National Assembly since 2008.
According to him, “The Senate is already primed because most experts have submitted that we need to do something about the PIB; and because of the sensitivity of the host community relationship and benefit sharing issue, that issue met some brick wall even before it went ahead.

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