By Ahuraka Isah and Solomon Ayado,
The Senate yesterday confirmed yesterday that its Appropriation Committee will lay the 2017 budget of N7.298trillion next Tuesday.
It added that the budget will consequently be passed into law before the end of next week, barely a week after the implementation of the 2016 budget expires.
LEADERSHIP, our sister publication, had reported yesterday that, to avoid any constitutional crisis in the country’s budgetary process, the Senate was making frantic effort to ensure the 2017 budget is passed before the end of next week.
Senate resolution yesterday followed the stepping down for the laying of report of the Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance on the Appropriation Bill, 2017.
The budget proposal was presented to the National Assembly for approval by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 14, 2016.
Report on final work on the budget was earlier slated for presentation in the Senate yesterday by the Chairman of its Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje as listed on the Order Paper but the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, requested that it should be stepped down from the item when called upon to put in process, submission of the report.
According to him, the Senate joint committees on Appropriations and Finance finalizing reports on the budget proposals along with their counterparts in the House of Representatives were still dotting their ‘’ices’’ (i) and crossing their ‘’tees’’ (ts) on the budget report to avoid discrepancies in the reports of the two chambers before final passage.
He however said the leadership of the committees at both chambers have assured that they will meet to harmonize their respective positions this weekend and consequently make it ready for presentation on Tuesday next week.
“I have also equally been informed by leadership of the committees that by the grace of God definitely the budget 2017 will be laid on Tuesday. Having said this, Mr. President distinguished colleagues, I will move that we stand down this report to Tuesday the next legislative day and I so moved”, he said.
After putting into voice votes the adoption of the motion seconded by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP Taraba South), the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session stressed the need for the Senate to be on the same page with the House of Representatives on the report.
This led to re-fixing of the date for its laying before the Senate and final consideration for Tuesday next week.
He said, “Let me also emphasise for the benefit of the public that we are minded to receive this report today (yesterday). It was only this morning that it was necessary for us to be sure that we are on the same page with the House of Representatives to avoid any possible conferencing.
“So, what we like to see is for the House and the Senate laying just the same documents so that once we pass, we will now send the documents to the President for assent.
“I think this is important that the point be made and the public know that the harmonisation which is going on should be concluded over the weekend to enable us receive the budget report by Tuesday and by the grace of God have it passed by next week and we send it to the President for assent.
Ekweremadu continued: “Let me also inform the public as well that the tenure of the 2016 budget ends tomorrow the 5th because it was passed on the 5th of May 2016 but under the constitution the Federal government is entitled to continue to spend money based on the 2016 estimates up to the 30th of June, 2017.
“But we will not allow us to get into the reliance on the constitutional provision hopefully by the grace of God we will have this budget next week, we passed it so that implementation will start in earnest. So I just want to appeal for the understanding of the people of Nigeria”.
The 2017 budget estimates as presented by President Buhari in December last year was based on critical assumptions like $42.5 per barrel as oil price bench mark, 2.2 million barrels per day as proposed oil production and average exchange rate of N305 to the US dollar, among others.