Nigeria News
Senators disagree over budget passage
President of the Senate, David Mark

Nigerians who are yearning for an early passage of the 2015 Appropriation Bill may have to wait a little longer as some members of the Senate on Wednesday expressed doubts about the possibility of accomplishing the task before April.

Investigations revealed that the senators, who adjourned for the Christmas and New Year holidays on December 16, 2014, the day that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, presented the budget estimated to the National Assembly, had not commenced the consideration of the document.

Although the Senate President, David Mark, assured Nigerians that the various committees would be working on the bill even during the holidays, our correspondent learnt that nothing had been done on it.

Some senators told our correspondent that the budget consideration might actually commence after the February general elections because they had yet to receive copies of the proposal. This is, however, contrary to the claims by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, that copies of the document had been given to the lawmakers before they went on break.

Senators Babafemi Ojudu (APC Ekiti Central), Olufemi Lanlehin, (Accord Party, Oyo South), Chris Ngige (APC Anambra Central), Boluwaji Kunlere (PDP Ondo South) and Zagbayi Nuhu, (PDP Niger North) said they had not received copies of the document.

While Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara North) expressed the hope that the National Assembly would pass the budget before the general elections, his counterpart in Lagos West, Ganiyu Solomon, said the passage of the bill might have to wait till April.

Marafa said the National Assembly would do the needful to ensure that the budget was passed before the elections.

He said, “We will find a way of balancing it. Both the budget and the elections are important. We will do everything possible to ensure its (budget) early passage.

“As members of the opposition, we will work round the clock to carry out necessary legislative work on the budget so that we will not be accused of deliberately frustrating the efforts of the PDP-led executive because of the elections.

“We will do our own so that they will not have any excuse to say that it is the National Assembly that is responsible for the suffering that Nigerians are going through. We don’t want them to hinge their inability to meet their financial obligations on the legislature’s failure to pass the budget.”

But Solomon, who is the Senate’s Deputy Minority Leader, said the budget could not be passed earlier than April this year.

He said, “My position is based on the fact that we will be going on recess for the elections immediately after we resume on January 13. The elections will be a month away from the date of resumption.

“All the senators, whether they are contesting or not, will want to be in their constituencies. We may not have plenary but we will have some of us actively working in our various committees.”

The senator argued that since the last election would be held on April 28, it was expected that the lawmakers would resume in March.

Solomon said, “We cannot conclude work on the budget within a week. We have to do a thorough job. Even if we have the intention of rushing work on the budget before, the current economic reality arising from the fall in oil prices won’t allow that.

“The earliest we will have that budget is April considering every situation. The reason for this is that the executive did not present the budget early enough for consideration. If it had been presented in September, they would have given us enough time to treat the budget so that by the close of business in December, we would have had the budget.

“If there is a need to make an adjustment through a supplementary appropriation bill, it will be a different ball game altogether.

“For us to be considering the budget afresh now will automatically cause a significant delay in the passage because it was presented on the last day the Senate adjourned for the year. We should not expect a miracle until April except we want to have garbage in and garbage out.”

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