…Begins budget debate today
…Suspends plenary for hearings, defences
By Christiana Ekpa, Ikechukwu Okaforadi, and Musa Adamu
The President of the Senate, Sen. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and the Speaker of House of the Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday gave Ministries, Developments and Agencies (MDAs) one month ultimatum to appear before it’s Committees for the defense of their Budget estimates within the month of October. Even as they stressed that the month of October has earmarked to be the sole window for all Budget defense activities in this year, by all MDAs.
This was just as the Green Chamber disclosed that it’s will begin budget debates from Wednesday and Suspend the plenaries from Tuesday next week to ensure that the budget is reserved to January to December cycle and performance rather than the irregularities in the past.
The Senate President Lawan who disclosed while presenting his opening remarks, for the 2020 budget presentation on Tuesday said members of the National Assembly and indeed all Nigerians, looks forward with great expectations on the 2020 budget stressing that , to Nigerians, the presentation of budget yesterday is significant as it unfold the plans of the Federal Government on how our socio-economic wellbeing will be enhanced in the 2020 financial year.
He stressed, “Mr. President, the National Assembly Committees are ready to receive the Honourable Ministers and other heads of government agencies for the defense of the Budget of the various MDAs. In order for timely passage, all . MDAs are expected to appear before the Committees for the defense of their Budget estimates within the month of October. We have earmarked the month of October to be the sole window for all Budget defense activities in this year, by all MDAs”
He said “all of us members of the National Assembly here today, and indeed all Nigerians, look forward to this day with great expectations. As representatives of the people, we are assembled here to listen and receive the fiscal plans for the year 2020, for the people that we represent. For every Nigerian, this day is significant as you unfold the plans of the Federal Government on how our socio-economic wellbeing will be enhanced in the 2020 financial year.
“This function being the first in the 9th session of the National Assembly, makes it even more significant as both the Legislature and the Executive have demonstrated readiness and commitment to work together in order to pass the 2020 Budget in a good and desirable time. Clearly, this effort is to enable the Federal government provide those laudable objectives of physical infrastructure and socio-economic services to our citizens.
“The public, as well as the private sectors need a reliable Budget cycle that is predictable, and reliable for planning and execution of their fiscal and financial policies and programmes. It is therefore, necessary that the present cycle is changed to a January-December cycle. In this regard, the National Assembly, and the Executive must work together to ensure the realization of this important objective.
He said the National Assembly after the receipt of the Budget Estimates will swing into swift action, to start work. “Both Chambers of the National Assembly have constituted their Committees, we are therefore, ready to start processing the Budget estimates.
“The 9th National Assembly has shown capacity, commitment and willingness to treat legislative matters that will impact on the lives of our citizens with dispatch and every sense of urgency. This was clearly demonstrated last week, when we received, processed and passed the request of Mr. President on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).
“Your Excellency, the National Assembly will treat the 2020 Budget Estimates with the same commitment or even more. In our effort to pass the Budget, we will also be guided by the legislative requirement of a thorough scrutiny.
“In this regard, our Committees will be expected to conclude their work on Budget defense within October, this year. The subsequent necessary legislative work will be carried out in November and December, leading to eventual passage before the end of this year.
“Recently, the Senate passed its Legislative Agenda and the House of Representatives will pass its Legislative Agenda soon. Though the agendas are separately treated, the objectives and goals are the same. At the heart of our agendas are the Nigerian people. Mr President, both the Legislature and the Executive have the same agenda – a commitment to taking Nigeria to the Next Level of development.
“We all want to ensure that the Federal Government is better enabled to provide enhanced security for protection of lives and property of Nigerians, an improved and revitalized economy, that is all inclusive; able to create and sustain employment opportunities for our teeming youths; taking Nigerians out of poverty to prosperity and sustainable development. Mr. President, we are all on the same page” he said.
Also speaking, the Speaker of the House Gbajabiamila who expressed NASS sincere appreciation to the President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for coming to the National Assembly to address this joint session, in fulfillment of his constitutional obligation, said “the budget we enact into law will be proof of our priorities and a reflection of the values we hold. What are those values? Integrity, accountability in managing the affairs of state and absolute commitment to the best interests of the Nigerian people.
“What are our priorities? Building an economy that provides sufficient opportunity for our people to achieve the dreams they hold dear – equipping our children with an education that prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world – protecting the rights of our citizens and securing them from internal and external aggression. This is our commitment and we will ensure that this commitment is reflected in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
“There are significant flaws in the process of passage and implementation of our annual national budgets. Some of these problems are structural, others are a function of failures of process and inadequacies in attitude. We intend in this 9th Assembly to improve on these past imperfections and to leave a legacy of budgets that are enacted without rancour, implemented diligently and that achieve the objectives of national development for which they are intended. We fully intend to return to a January to December budget cycle and to put an end to the policy instability and economic uncertainty that is a consequence of an unpredictable budget cycle.
“We recognise that our highest ambitions and the collective best interests of our nationhood can only be achieved when the legislature and the executive work together in pursuit of our shared ambitions. Therefore, we will make every effort in this 9th assembly to achieve constructive collaboration with the executive on all matters of appropriation, implementation and oversight.
“We will seek collaboration, but we will not yield on our constitutional obligation to ensure faithful compliance with the letter and spirit of the Appropriation Act by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government. We will strive for big wins, resisting the temptation to bask in the false allure of mediocre achievements because this moment calls for nothing short of grand ambition, and transformative ideas. Above all else, we will hold ourselves in the legislature and others, to the highest standards of probity because to fall short of excellence will be to betray the calling of leadership to which we all have answered” he added.
Briefing newsmen after the budget presentation, the spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu said, (APC Avis) said the House will begin debate on Wednesday 9th and Suspend plenary from next week Tuesday for budget public hearing and defenses.