- As Senate’s face-off with ministers, others worsens
The Nigerian senate has insisted that it would not pass the 2018 budget as proposed except all the ministries, agencies and departments of the Federal Government make available to it the details of their budget.
But as at last week, the Senate disclosed that of the 64 federal agencies captured in the 2018 budget, only one had submitted its budget details to the National Assembly.
The position of the upper chamber of the National Assembly is an indication that Nigerians should not expect an early passage of the N8.612trillion proposed national budget.
A member of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, in an interview had disclosed that the MDAs failure to submit the details might stall its early passage.
Ibrahim, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, further disclosed that the Senate might also ignore the MDAs and proceed with the submissions already made by President Muhammadu Buhari in the budget estimates, pointing out that the Senate would not continue to wait for the MDAs indefinitely.
Ibrahim said: “The speed at which the budget will be passed will depend on the seriousness of the MDAs.
“And that is why the Senate gave an ultimatum. But if the MDAs fail to come forward, the Senate will do the budget the way we feel is best for Nigeria.
“We can even ignore them and proceed to prepare the budget based on the President’s submission. You know that the president has already submitted his own budget proposal to us. So, if they don’t come to defend, we will deliver the judgment ourselves, working with the president’s estimate.”
He dismissed complaints by some ministers against figures allocated to their ministries saying that their complaints amounts to nothing since they have failed to honour invitations extended to them to defend their allocations.
Already, some senators are mobilising to seek more stringent sanctions that could result to halting further release of funds to the affected MDAs.
Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who gave the hint while ruling on a motion sponsored by the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, last Wednesday, condemned the affected MDAs for their non-cooperation with the lawmakers, stressing that the parliament would be forced to move against them if they failed to meet up with the deadline.
All these notwithstanding, the House of Representatives may have concluded arrangements to ensure the passage of the budget by the end of next month.
Already, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, has instructed the entire 96 standing committees to work round the clock to meet the deadline.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Joseph Akinlaja, said the directive followed deliberate attempts by some MDAs to defend their budgetary allocations.
Akinlaja who spoke to The Guardian described the development as a clear attempt to portray the National Assembly as not living up to its responsibilities in the passage of the budget timeously.
According to him: “This is another form of blackmail that is intended to suggest that it is the parliament that is delaying the passage of the budget. Only one of the MDAs has submitted its details, while majority of them are yet to do the needful.
“This development is capable of delaying the passage of the budget, but we have a target. The Speaker has told us that all of us should work round the clock and make sure that we conclude work on it before the end of March.
“If the MDAs don’t come to defend their budget, we already have a budget proposal from Mr. President. So we can go ahead without them… if they are reluctant to come and defend their budgets, we would work on Mr. President’s proposal and amend where necessary and send it for assent.”