By Umar Muhammad Puma
Lawmakers under the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives, yesterday faulted the procedure of presentation of Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The opposition members argued that according to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, that the MTEF/FSP must be presented to the parliament for consideration and approval’ three clear months before the presentation of the budget.
Rep Femi Gbajabiamila while presented the motion was stioped following a point of order moved by Rep Betty Apiafi, (PDP Rivers), citing provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the possible breach portended by the rush to pass the document, as well as the non-realistic nature of some of the assumptions in the document, cautioning that the House may later be accused of padding the budget when alterations are made.
But Deputy Speaker of the House, Rep Lasun Yussuff who presided over the sitting appealed that there was no need to defer the debate, explaining that “nothing stops the House from amending the assumptions, if we do not agree with them”.
Gbajabiamila while responding to the point of order, cited section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as emended), which provided that any law, or part of which is inconsistent with the constitution, shall to the extent of such inconsistency be null and void, against the constitutional powers of the President to cause for the budget be laid “at any time” before each houses of the National Assembly.
He, however, appealed to his colleagues that though there have been a level of inconsistency of the Act with the constitution, to “in the interest of the nation, and for the good of the country”, allow the debate to proceed, as going forward, “the right thing will be done”, before he gave highlights of key assumptions in the document.
But the bickering continued as other members of the opposition, including Rep.Ismaila Muazu, (PDP Gombe), and Nnena Elendu-Ukeje, Daniel Asuquo and Samson Okwu insisted that the right thing should be done.
While Muazu posited that the figures were fact-based assumptions, and not to be seen as ‘mere’ as portrayed by Yussuff, Elendu-Ukeje argued that “when procedures are breached, the foundation of democracy is weakened”, saying members need more time to study the projections.
However, Rep Daniel Reyenieju, (PDP Delta), appealed to his colleagues, that it was already late to tow the path of faulting the presentation, adding that the President should not have been allowed to lay the budget, when the MTEF/FSP was yet to be approved by the parliament.
With the appeal, the Deputy Speaker thanked the opposition members, stating that “we are grateful to you for allowing the debate to continue”, before yielding floor to Deputy Majority Whip, Pally Iriase, Kayode Oladele and Ahmad Pategi, all of the ruling APC, cautioned the relevant committees to which the document subsequently referred to, to do a thorough job.