By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
After about two hours closed door session, the senate yesterday resolved to suspend the consideration of the 2018 budget pending when the executive will provide it with the details of the 2017 budget performance.
The lawmakers who spoke differently slammed the executive for failing to ensure that the 2017 budget attained fifty per cent implementation as promised by Predident Mohammadu Buhari when he laid the 2018 budget before the joint session of the National Assembly.
The lawmakers while taking turns to lambaste the executive for the failure of the 2017 budget which they claimed was still below twenty per cent, blamed the executive for not cooperating with the parliament to ensure that the proposed January to December budget calendar is realized.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary session, in his remarks after the debate, expressed dissatisfaction that even after the senate leadership had put so much pressures on the standing committees to ensure that the 2018 budget is passed before December ending, it is still impossible.
He said with the experiences the committee heads had with the MDAs, which they had narrated, the senate is left with no option than to work within the circumstance they have found themselves and most importantly ensure that the best budget is what if offered to Nigerians. He therefore urged his colleagues to ensure that the 2017 budget is given a thorough consideration.
Raising Order 42, the Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mohammed Ibin N’Allah, said there is need to lay the facts before Nigerians to enable them know the challenges the National Assembly is facing towards early passage of the budget.
He said as the elected representatives of the people, the senate needed to let the public follow them on the budget, to enable them understand that despite the efforts and commitment of the parliament to restore the January – December budget calendar, the heads of government agencies are frustrating their efforts.
Speaking also, Senator Banabas Gemade, said it is clear that the two weeks period given by the senate to enable the sub committees consider the budget defence of the government agencies has not been able to exhaust all the agencies, as some of the agencies are not coming forth.
Gemade lamented that the more those in the executive claim that they are releasing funds for capital budget, the less is seen to meet up with required benchmark for the implementation of the 2017 budget capital.
Similarly, Mao Ohuabunwa, while slamming the executive for the budget delay, said the MTEF was brought late contrary to the constitutional requirement that it should be brought before the parliament four months before budget presentation.
Senator Solomon Olamilekan, however suggested that the senate should invite the ministers of finance and budget to appear before them and explain the situation with the 2017 budget before they can proceed with the 2018 budget.
He said there is no need to rush it the 2018 budget, adding that the executive submitted and withdrew the MTEF many times, contrary to what the law said on early submission of MTEF. He said the senate should focus on the 2017 budget and leave the 2018 budget for now.
Also, senator Lanre Tejuosho, recounted his experience with the MDAs, saying that the heads all travelled out of the country the same week the senate adjourned for budget defence. He said the senate, from all indications, cannot finish the budget defence of 2017 this year and should therefore suspend it till next year as time is already against it.
In addition, senator Hassan Mohammed suggested that the senate should come up with a standard format that will indicate the projects the government agencies have completed, what is ongoing and what is new, to enable them to rate the performance of the 2017 budget. This he said will help the senate sub committees to handle the issues of budget defence with ease and effectiveness.
Senator Matthew Uroghide, who reiterated that the 2018 budget is dead on arrival, recalled that the overhead budget of the 2017 budget is worse as the capital budget.
He said the Minister of Finance announced recently that the government has released additional N750 billion to MDAs, explaining that this is not part of what the senate committees considered at budget defense.