By Christiana Ekpa, Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Following the allusion by the Federal Government that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable may disrupt implementation of the 2018 budget, the National Assembly yesterday replied the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha that, both Chambers will not allow 2019 politicking to override their legislative agenda.
The SGF Mustapha, had urged the Senate not to allow politics of 2019 general election affect the implementation of the N8.612trillion 2018 budget presented by President Mohammadu Buhari to the National Assembly recently.
Mustapha who made this allusion when he appeared before the Senate committee on Federal Character for 2018 budget defence, said electioneering politics usually delay budget implementation.
But responding to this, Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki, while delivering his resumption speech at the plenary on Tuesday said performing legislative duties is most sensitive to the needs of the people of this country.
This is just as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has warned his colleagues against relegating legislative duties to the background in favour of politicking as political activities picked in 2018.
Saraki said “This is my appeal: it is too early for 2019 politicking to override the legislative agenda and the larger work of governance. We have begun a good thing with the economic core of our agenda; let us see it to its proper conclusion. I am directing this appeal not only to us in the chamber but to the National Assembly as a whole, as well as to the Executive and indeed all political actors
“It is my appeal to each and every one of us, that our legislative duty to Nigeria and her people, must be uppermost in our minds. We must not allow the upcoming 2019 elections to overshadow our work for the people that elected us – or distract us from that which we are mandated to do by the constitution and the trust reposed in us by the people”
According to Saraki, the 2018 budget will be defined by the collaboration between the two chambers of the 8th National Assembly as regards the number of items due for concurrence.
“We must work to build on the very cordial relationship between the two chambers as witnessed so far, and elevate the level of cooperation, for the benefit of the people. To this end, I urge you all to reach out to our counterparts in the House, so that we can fulfil the lawmaking function in the most expeditious manner. This will help streamline the process – and clear the way for the passing of various legislations – making for improved synergy and joined-up working between the two chambers.”
Dogara reminded his colleagues that they were voted to serve for four years, warned that their works was not done until the four years period was over.
He said: “As we enter 2018, political activities will pick up. We must however remember that we were elected to represent the people for a four year term. The work is not finished. This is the time to conclude many outstanding legislative measures pending before us.”
He further emphasiesd that there was need for his colleagues to keep up the tempo so as to keep the economy on the track of full recovery from recession.
“Dear Colleagues, the economy, must remain the central focus of our legislative activities in 2018, in order to consolidate Nigeria’s exit from economic recession. To this end, we must prioritise high economic impact Bills and pass them before the onset of political activities. The Committee on Rules and Business is hereby charged to schedule the consideration of these Bills at the earliest possible time.”
He also sounded the importance of concluding the process of of amending the Electoral Act latest by the first quarter of the year.
“The Electoral Act Amendment process must be speedily concluded, this first quarter. Same with Constitutional alteration process, especially those on electoral matters. The Rules of the game must be clear to the actors early enough before the game begins. This is absolutely necessary in order to improve on the standards we set in the last general elections.
Further setting the agenda for the House, he maintained that the practice of divesting various Ad-Hoc and Standing Committees with jurisdiction over referrals that had refused or neglected to submit their reports on various Bills and Resolutions would continue in this year.
“We would strengthen the Rules and Business Committee of the House, which is the secretariat of the Committee of Whole, to consider the Reports divested from various Committees. Indeed, all Ad-Hoc Committees that have not submitted their Reports within the time frame given to them, and without getting an extension of time from the House would be divested of jurisdiction and that without further notice.”