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Published On: Wed, Dec 19th, 2018

NASS inflating debts payable to states – Buhari

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  • Presents N8.7trn 2019 budget today
  • As lawmakers defy staff strike

By Ikechukwu Okaforadi, Musa Adamu, Christiana Ekpa and Umar Puma

President Muhammadu Buhari has accused the National Assembly of padding his request for N487.8 billion to settle local debts with N890.5 million extra, asking the lawmakers for explanation on the excess amount.
This is even as the President will today present the N8.7 trillion 2019 budget before a joint session of the National Assembly.
Both chambers of National Assembly yesterday discountenanced the industrial action embarked on by the staff of the parliament under the aegis of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), and independently set machinery in motion to receive the 2019 budget to be submitted today by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, in a letter dated 10th December, which was read by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, President Buhari alleged that the lawmakers added N890.537million to the N487.852billion promissory note he sent to them for approval.
According to the letter, the fund was meant for settlement of inherited local debts and contractual obligations on refund to state governments for projects executed on behalf of the Federal Government by some state governments.
He however, said the federal lawmakers also reduced the number of beneficiary States from 25 to 21 despite the N890.537million added to the N487.852billion request.
According to the President, the changes made by the National Assembly in the request are not implementable due to provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Consequently he added that though the Federal Government would not release money to any of the states removed from beneficiary list by the National Assembly but the exact monies approved by FEC for the 21, other states would be paid to them regardless of whether such approvals have been tampered with or not by NASS in its own approval.
The letter titled: “Promissory Note Programme and a Bond Issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations on refund to State Governments for Projects Executed on behalf of the Federal Government” reads in part:
While the Federal Executive Council approved a total sum of N487,852,988,574.74 as reimbursement to State Governments, the National Assembly approved N488,743,526,204.77 implying that the amount approved by National Assembly was N890,537,630.03 higher than the amount approved by FEC;
“While Federal Executive Council approved reimbursement to 25 States, National Assembly approved reimbursement to only 21 States;
“National Assembly did not approve any reimbursement for four States (Bauchi, Delta, Kogi and Taraba) whereas Federal Executive Council had approved reimbursements for them and note that, the amounts approved by the National Assembly for reimbursement to 21 states are higher than the amounts approved by Federal Executive Councit for reimbursement to 25 states.
“The amount approved by National Assembly for reimbursement to each of the 21 States is higher than the amount approved by FEC for each of these States except for Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano and Niger.
“The Senate may kindly note the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, which empowers the Bureau of Pubtic Procurement (BPP) to approve vendors and contract sums. The amounts presented to National Assembly for approval were duly certified for reimbursement by the BPP, before they were approved by the Federal Executive Council. This was after the projects had been inspected through a programme under the chairmanship of the honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
“Since the BPP is charged with the responsibility of approving contract sums, and there is a need for compliance with the Public Procurement Act, 2007, I wish to request that you forward to us details relating to the amounts approved by National Assembly for the 17 States in excess of what was certified by BPP for necessary certification and approval Furthermore, I wish to request for review of the reimbursements earlier submitted in favour of Bauchi, Delta, Kogi and Taraba States.
“Meanwhile the Federal Government shall proceed with implementation on the basis of where the amount approved by the National Assembly is the same as the amount approved by the Federal Executive Council: The jointly approved amount would be reimbursed. The States are: Adamawa,
Jigawa, Kano and Niger;
“Where the amount approved by the National Assembly is higher than the amount approved by Federal Executive Council: The amount approved by FEC would be reimbursed. The States are: Akwa lbom, Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, lmo, Kwara, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Plateau and Zamfara.
“Finally where no amount was approved by National Assembly, no reimbursement will be made: The affected States are: Bauchi, Delta, Kogi and Taraba”.
Meanwhile, contrary to expectations that the lawmakers will not hold plenary session yesterday due to strike action by the PASAN, who had on Monday effectively shut down the parliament by withdrawing all services to the lawmakers, the both chambers sat and carried out their legislative functions.
It had been expected that the PASAN members who are suspected to have plotted the strike action against the 2019 budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari, may succeed in their game plan and might frustrate the budget presentation to the parliament due to the shutdown of the National Assembly.
However, the reverse was the case yesterday as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuf Lassun, and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stormed the chambers and presided over the plenary session.
Though the turnout of the lawmakers in both chambers was very poor, to the extent that the expected quorum of 37 senators was in doubt, and also the 120 in the green chamber due to abysmal attendance occasioned by glaring absence of the PDP lawmakers, however, the two presiding officers conducted the plenary and even moved the motion that both chambers sit in a joint session today to receive the budget that would be presented by the President, which was adopted.

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