As the face-off between the executive and the legislature continues, there are very strong indications that the Senate may not effect the much needed serious changes in the 2016 budget to make it realistic and implementable to show their anger against the executives who has continued the trail of its leadership over forgery of its rules and procedures.
Other Executive Bills and special requests from the Presidency, including nominations for appointments, are among the many issues that would be adversely affected by the dirty battle arising from the trial of the two presiding officers of the Senate, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Order 2016.
Following the huge drop in anticipated revenue upon which the N6 trillion budget was largely based, the Presidency, it was learnt was preparing an amendment to be effected on the budget to make it realistic.
Among the factors that had greatly reduced expected revenue is the drop in the value of the Naira which has pushed the official exchange rate beyond the N197 to a dollar which was used in passing the budget.
Also, the sharp decrease in the oil production level, far below the 2.2 million barrels per day calculation that was adopted in passing the budget, is another factor that will necessitate a review of the 2016 budget.
But sittings of the Senate may suffer serious disruptions after recent Sallah recess as a result of the trial of the two presiding officers of the Senate, a situation that might make the consideration of the budget amendment and any other request from the executive arm difficult.
The Senate resumed plenary sittings on the 12th of July, 2016, just as the trial of its two Presiding officers had been fixed to commence from Monday, the 11th of July but was again adjourned because of the commencement of vacation by judges.
According to Senate Rules and tradition, plenary sitting would only hold with a Presiding Officer to guide the day’s proceedings.
And in the absence of the two presiding officers, the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, Senate can only sit in plenary if it appoints a Senate President Pro-Tempore to preside pending the existence of substantive Senate President.
Rule 27 of Senate Standing Order states” In the absence of the President of the Senate and Deputy President of the Senate, such senator as the Senate may elect for the purpose shall preside, such senator shall be known as “President Pro-Tempore”.
However, hopes of the likely emergence of a Senate President Pro-Tempore to preside over Senate plenary in the absence of Saraki and Ekweremadu who might be in court upon the commencement of the forgery trial, became dashed yesterday following the opposition of many Senators to the idea.
The “Like Minds” group of Senators comprising over 80 Senators, it was learnt have already resolved to stand against any move to appoint a Senate President Pro-Tempore.
According to the group, the Senate would not sit on days the forgery case would be heard in court since both Saraki and Ekweremadu would be out in court.
An active member of the “Like Minds” said:
“I can conveniently tell you that we are ready for the executive this time. The matter is simple. They cannot eat their cakes and still have it. The executive believes that it could impose a Senate President on the Senate. It won’t happen. So, as far as overwhelming majority of Senators are concerned, nothing like the appointment of Senate President Pro-Tempore will happen on the floor of this Senate. If the two Presiding officers are not around, we close the chamber until such a day one of them will be available”
Chairman of Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Sam Anyanwu, who sent his reaction through text message on report that some Senators have adopted the option of appointment of Senate Pro-Tempore in the absence of Saraki and Ekweremadu, simply declared:
“There is nothing like that and it cannot happen”
Another reaction which came from the Chairman of Senate Committee on Banking and Other Financial Institutions, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, stated:
“It is a blatant lie”
President Muhammadu Buhari, while signing the 2016 Budget into law last May said that the 2016 Budget was designed to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy despite the huge decline in government revenues from crude oil exports.
The signing of the budget, he said, will trigger concerted efforts to relate the Nigerian economy.
He said: “The budget is intended to signpost a renewal of our commitment to restoring the budget as a serious article of faith with the Nigerian people. This Administration is committed to ensuring that henceforth the annual appropriation bill is presented to the National Assembly in time for the passage of the Act before the beginning of the fiscal year.
“Through the 2016 budget, aptly titled “Budget of Change’’, the government seeks to fulfill its own side of the social contract.
“In designing the 2016 budget, we made a deliberate choice to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy despite the huge decline in government revenues from crude oil exports. This is why we decided to enlarge the budget deficit at this time, to be financed principally through foreign and domestic borrowings. All borrowings will however be applied towards growth-enhancing capital expenditures.
“The signing of the budget today will trigger concerted efforts to relate the Nigerian economy, a key element of which is an immediate injection of N350bn into the economy by way of capital projects.
“To illustrate our renewed commitment to infrastructural development, the 2016 budget allocates over N200 bn to road construction as against a paltry N18bn allocated for same purpose in the 2015 budget,” he said.
Despite the current challenges, he said that his administration will work extra-hard to achieve the revenue projections.
“Our revenue generating agencies are coming under better management and are re-oriented. The implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) is expected to contribute significantly to improving transparency over government revenues,” he added.
However, without an amendment to the Budget Act, most of the objectives enumerated by the President would not be achievable.