***alleges Executive is Unserious on Bill
BY SOLOMON AYADO and AHURAKA ISAH, Abuja
Senate on Tuesday said there is no way it will pass the 2018 budget in December, 2017 as pledged because the Appropriation Bill as presented to it by the Executive is badly prepared.
Although no date has been fixed as to when the Bill will be passed. Also, all committees assigned to conduct the budget defence have seemingly put up their meetings.
Recall that the National Assembly had, two weeks ago, adjourned plenary to December 19 , 2017 , to allow the standing committees to hold budget defence sessions for federal ministries , departments and agencies.
But the Upper Chamber alleged that the executive arm of government is very unserious about fostering the timely passage of the 2018 budget hence the non-performance of the 2017 budget.
It faulted the seeming lackadaisical attitude of heads of ministries as well as the economic team of Mr. President, saying they have not in anyway showed the seriousness the budget proposal deserves .
Specifically, the lawmakers condemned the 2018 budget in its entirety, saying there is no correlation between it and the 2017 budget.
The Senators noted that the 2017 budget has only been implemented less than twenty percent which is abysmal failure while insisting that the 2018 budget is garnished with deception.
Citing no roll over of projects from the 2017 budget performance into the 2018 consolidated budget as assured and presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senators further stated that heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have blatantly refused to show up for defence, even as those that turned up failed or were unprepared to proffer valid explanations on bugging issues.
The Senate, while noting that the budget defence of some government ministries and agencies is schewed with repititions and dublications of items, it said if the budget is hurriedly passed without proper scrutiny, it would amount to denting the image of the legislature and to further create lack of credibility.
For instance, most Senators pointed out that the Senate had approved a $5.5b foreign loan request of the executive which but included completion of projects such as the Mambilla Power Project and that in the 2018 budget, the sum of N8.5 billion is reflected in the ministry’s main budget for execution of same.
The condemnation of the 2018 budget from Senate followed a motion raised by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Balla Ibn Na’Allah on the need to not hastily pass the budget owing to the difficulties the Senate committees are facing in the defence by MDAs.
According to Na’Allah, “the Senate had embarked on two weeks break to enable committees conclude their assigned duties in order to meet the passage date of the budget as pledged but it has encountered several ecumberances that must be sorted out.”
Concuring the position, Senators Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East) and Mao Ohunwabunwa (Abia North) noted that with recent ugly unfolds including inability of heads of MDAs to defense their proposals satisfactorily, there are no proofs to show that the 2017 capital budget was implemented adequately, and for that the passage of the 2018 budget should be reconsidered from 1st April, 2018.
They stated that the Senators are not magicians to ensure passage of the budget without proper defense and or without synchronization of the items therein, saying anything contrary would amount to aberration.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) in his assertion described the 2018 budget as “bojuboju” and said it has failed because it is prepared by deceit. He noted that N1.4 trillion stamp duty has not been remmited and that over N2 trillion is hanging with CBN, as well as over N300 billion as IGR hasn’t been paid by NNPC hence no need for federal government to borrow.
For Senator Mathew Urogbide (Edo South), the budget defense presentation of MDAs is sordid and should be put at bay while the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun should appear to proffer answers on it.
In his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Saraki insisted that “the lawmakers cannot not turn to magicians to pass the budget without proper defense from MDAs. The 2018 budget is a disaster if projects in the 2017 budgets are not rolled over to 2018. I will continue to appeal that you work within what you have.”