There were indications yesterday that the 2017 budget may not be laid today before the Senate plenary.
LEADERSHIP learnt that it was not even listed among items in the Senate order paper for today as at 8:00pm last night when the order paper was already prepared.
Laying of the 2017 Budget was conspicuously missing from the order paper, indicating that the budget presentation may have been postponed.
Besides, the federal government yesterday met with the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives to evolve budgetary allocation measures to settle unpaid salaries, owed allowances and pension arrears of workers in the country.
It became evidently clear that the budget would not be passed today when the meeting turned out to be inconclusive and was consequently adjourned to 4:00pm today to reach a definite outcome.
The minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; his Labour and Employment counterpart, Chris Ngige; the director general of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, and the chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, met behind closed doors in the conference hall of the Senate President.
It was gathered that the meeting became necessary to consider some vital financial requirements and include them in the budget before it is finally passed.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Ngige said government takes the welfare of workers very paramount and that there was urgent need to include in the budget all financial requirements to enable the federal government offset owed salaries, pension and allowances of workers.
Ngige noted that, while the issue of owed salaries was tripartite, it required input of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the NLC to sought constitutional means of clearing it.
Also speaking, the national chairman of NLC, Waba, said the union will not play politics with the welfare of workers, hence the urgent need to augment the wages.
“We discussed issues bordering on salaries and allowances which have accumulated into millions and government have not paid”, Waba said.
Senate had last Thursday said that its Appropriation Committee will lay the 2017 budget of N7.298trillion today and consequently pass it into law on or before the end of this week.
This was just as the implementation of the 2016 budget which was signed into law by May 5, last year expired last Friday.
Report on final work on the budget was earlier slated for presentation in the Senate last Thursday by the chairman of its committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, as listed on the Order Paper but the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, requested that the item be stepped down when he was called upon to put in process submission of the report.
According to him, the Senate’s joint committees on Appropriation and Finance finalizing reports on the budget proposals along with their counterparts in the House of Representatives were still dotting the ‘’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 has assured that they will meet to harmonize their respective positions this weekend and consequently make it ready for presentation today.
2017 Budget Delay Is To Avoid Padding – Faleke
Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives, James Faleke, has said that the delay in the passage of the 2017 budget is to avoid the issues that characterized the 2016 budget, especially issues of padding.
Faleke, however, assured that the budget has gone through the various and necessary committee and is now ready for passage, adding that what the National Assembly tried to do this time was to do the needful once and for all.
Speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja after a closed door meeting with Kogi APC stake holders at the National Secretariat in Abuja, Faleke who confirmed that there was crisis in his state chapter of the party, however, refused to comment further on the issue.
Faleke said, “Budget process takes some time, unlike what we had before where you talk about budget padding or no padding. What the national Assembly tried to do this time is to do the needful once and for all with the budget details being submitted. The budget is ready; it is only to be considered at the floor as all committees have finished their work probably this week”.