President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday held a crucial meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, over the 2020 budget and $9.6billion United Kingdom (UK) judgement fine imposed on Nigeria.
In an interaction with State House correspondents after the talks, Gbajiabiamila said that he also discussed security issues with the president.
A UK court had on August 16, 2019 awarded the judgment authorising P&ID to seize Nigerian assets anywhere in the world worth $9.6 billion for contract default.
According to the speaker, “we discussed the issue of the budget, as you are aware we want to bring the budget circle back to what it used to be – January to December – and the only way to do that is for an early presentation of the budget and we have discussed that.
“We discussed security issues and that of the recent $9.6billion award against Nigeria. I say that with a smile but not really smiling. Clearly, we are in opposition to that and steps will be taken,” he said.
When asked if it’s likely that the budget could get to the National Assembly this month, Gbajiabiamila replied: “I cannot give you a definite answer but I know the budget is going to come as early as possible. It maybe the end of this month or shortly thereafter, but I cannot give you a definite date.
“But it’s going to be an early presentation so that we can pass the budget before the end of the year and return to the January to December circle,” he said.
The speaker further disclosed that the House of Representatives had shelved plans to reconvene the House over the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“As you are aware, I cut my trip to Tanzania to return with the hope of reconvening the House so that we can discuss this very important issue. We have called that off because events have overtaken it, the government has taken proactive steps the same we would have taken.
“We are all on the same page with the president and the government. So I came to fully discuss that with Mr. President and other national issues that require the attention of both the legislature and the executive, and we had very fruitful discussions on those issues.
On whether there were moves to cut diplomatic ties with South Africa, he said: “We are not there yet but nothing is off the table, we will take each day as it comes. As of now Mr. President has proactive steps in evacuating our citizens and invited the high commissioner, we will stand with him and Nigerians.
“We issued a statement today (yesterday) and it is in tandem with what the executive is doing and we stand by our citizens. Our priority is to protect the welfare of our citizens and that is exactly what we are doing and that is what the president is doing.”
On the refusal of South Africans to compensate the victims of the xenophobic attacks, the speaker said that “ I don’t know if that statement is official or one by somebody. When it’s official we will take further steps. After the delegation to South Africa returns, I’m sure there are probably other avenues that we can pursue.
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