Contrary to an earlier promise made by both chambers of the National Assembly that the 2016 national budget would be passed on or before February 25, 2016, lawmakers yesterday recanted, no new date was set.
Addressing a joint Press conference at the Senate wing of the National Assembly, Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje and his House of Representatives counterpart, Abdulmuminin Jubril, said the two chambers needed enough time to scrutinize the budget and come up with a clean copy that would be accepted by Nigerians.
“We are here in connection with the ongoing processing of the 2016 budget defence. As you are aware, these two committees are the ones saddled with the production of the final copies of the budget that would be passed by the two houses for onward submission to Mr. President for his assent and subsequent implementation,” they told reporters.
They dispelled rumours that the new twist was the war the Senate promised the Presidency early this week over the ongoing trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Rather, they said the inconsistencies and alleged padding of the budget by some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) must be reconciled.
The lawmakers said: “Because of the observed instances that are being reported from the beginning of the budget submission, there are a lot of controversies surrounding the budget. We feel that we have to come here, interact with you, make some clarifications that Nigerians will know the correct situation of things regarding the 2016 budget.
“We designed a timetable for the consideration and passage of the budget. In that particular timetable, we said we will pass the budget on February 25, 2016. But as you are all aware, a lot of issues have come up and gladly so even the executive arm of government has also come out to accept the fact that there has been a lot of errors in the budget.
“Again, during the budget defence, a lot of issues based on the padding of the budget arising from overbloated overhead and in some instances cases of overbloated personnel cost. But generally, there has been a lot of issues.
“We will interact with all the stakeholders to enable us pass the budget that is implementable. We want a budget that is from the perspective of the legislature and also acceptable to the executive arm of the government.
“Again, in terms of capital expenditure, there are complaints coming from different quarters arising from the imbalance from the capital allocation and of course disagreement among the Ministers and the Civil Servants in the various ministries that we have witnessed during the period of budget defence. These all together form enough basis for us to sit down and ensure that a thorough job is done before the budget is passed,” the two chairman said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Gas Resources has rejected N200 million allocation demanded by the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the budget, to facilitate the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The committee also rejected request for allocation of additional N200 million for the review of the Nigeria Gas Masterplan. The ministry, while defending its budget before the committee, had said it needed N200 million for the passage of the PIB in the National Assembly.