Law News
Reps to pass budget after presidential poll

The House of Representatives named two ad hoc committees on Thursday to investigate the   state of the nation’s economy and alleged illegal lifting of crude oil.

The decision followed two separate motions sponsored by the House Minority Whip,   Sampson Osagie, and Robinson Uwak.

Osagie had in his motion wondered why the economy of a nation that earned N12.8tn from crude oil in 2014 and budgeted less than N5tn the same year should be considered as “being in near danger “ by rating agencies.

Osagie said, “These revelations are in sharp conflict with the general impression being created on the fine state of our economy, especially by the Ministry of Finance (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala).

The motion by Uwak, a lawmaker from Akwa Ibom State, dwelt on illegal oil theft from OPL 13 and OPL 14.

Uwak said that an oil firm   was believed to have been involved in this illegal lifting of crude oil to   unknown destinations.

He warned that “If this economic sabotage is allowed to go unchecked, it will pose serious threats to the economic lives and properties of the hosting communities.”

The first committee chaired by Opeyemi Bamidele was asked to investigate the country’s total crude oil proceeds in 2014 while the second headed by Friday Itulah would probe theft from the two oil wells.

Osagie had told the House that the investigation was necessary against the country’s dwindling returns from oil and the “less than N5tn” that was budgeted as overall expenditure in 2014.

After the presentations by the two lawmakers,   the motions   were endorsed by members in a unanimous voice vote.

The House however adjourned till March 31, skipping the passing of the 2015 budget till after the presidential poll.

Presidential and National Assembly elections are fixed for March 28.

There was anticipation that the estimated N4.3tn budget would be passed on Thursday before the adjournment.

The House merely adopted the harmonised report on the 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework by its committee and that of the Senate.

Both chambers of the National Assembly had also in conference, settled for $53 as   crude oil benchmark for the budget.

They had also agreed on N190 as the exchange rate of our currency to the United States   dollar.

The PUNCH gathered that members were “playing safe” to know the outcome of the polls before passing the budget.

“We are holding back a bit. This is not the time to let go at once. Let’s watch how events unfold”, a member told The PUNCH.

But, the Deputy House spokesman, Victor Ogene, explained that the House deferred the budget to give room for the appropriation committees of the Senate and the House to meet with the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on a little adjustment to the budget.

Ogene explained that the Senate had earlier okayed $52 as the benchmark and the House ,   $54.

He added that the harmonisation at conference resulted in the $53 that was eventually agreed as the   benchmark.

The lawmaker stated that the meeting with Okonjo-Iweala was to agree on how to plug the $1 difference.

Ogene added, “The assumption was that the budget was going to be passed today(Thursday). But, the decision of the Conference Committee on $53 altered every calculation.

“It means that the appropriation committees of the two chambers will have to meet with the minister of finance to iron out the details of the extra one dollar.”

Meanwhile, the Speaker,   Aminu Tambuwal, on Thursday kept sealed lips on the restoration of his Department of State Services security aides on Wednesday.

He was said to have earlier travelled out of Abuja but returned on Wednesday to find the security aides waiting for him in his residence.

Tambuwal reported for work   on Thursday (yesterday) with the aides giving him security cover.

But, efforts to get him to comment on what led to the return of the men or how he felt about the development, failed.

When our correspondent accosted him on the issue as he alighted from his car and made his way into the lobby of the National Assembly, he   kept saying “good morning”, “good morning.”

It will be recalled that the police and the DSS withdrew their men from the Speaker following his October 28, 2014 defection to the All Progressives Congress from the Peoples Democratic Party.

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