By Tony Obiechina
The House of Representatives reacted swiftly to President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech at the Budget signing ceremony in Abuja on Wednesday in which he blamed the National Assembly for altering the budgetary proposals earlier sent to it by the Executive arm.
In a statement in Abuja, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara while commending the President for signing the budget into law however, reminded him that the Legislature acted in accordance with the provisions of the constitution in altering the budget.
The statement signed by Hon Abdulrazaq Namdas, on behalf of the House of Representatives reads:
“The House of Representatives is appreciative of President Muhammadu Buhari in signing the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law and wish to make the following observations:
” That the budget is usually a proposal by the Executive to the National Assembly, which the latter is given the constitutional power of appropriation to alter, make additions, costs or reduce as it may deem necessary. The Legislature is not expected to be a rubber-stamp by simply approving the Executive proposals and returning the budget to Mr. President. Therefore, the additions Mr. President complained of in his speech are justifiable.
” We are on the same page with Mr. President in his desire to return our budget cycle to January-December. By the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, the budget estimates should be with the National Assembly around September of the year. In the case of the 2018 budget, the estimates came behind schedule in November 2017, even though this attempt was seen as one of the earliest in recent years. Going forward, we urge the Executive to speed up the reporting time to the National Assembly by complying fully with the FRA.
” Besides, there were delays that should be blamed on the heads of MDAs. Mr. President will recall that he had to direct ministers and heads of agencies to go to the National Assembly to defend their proposals. This came after the National Assembly had persistently raised the alarm over the non-cooperative attitudes of these government officials. On this grounds, the delay in passing the budget cannot be blamed on the legislature.
“New projects in budget. On this aspect, we have to remind Mr. President that we are representatives of our people and wish to state that even the common man deserves a mention in the budget by including projects that will directly affect his life positively. Some of the projects designed by the executive, as high-sounding as their names suggest, do not meet the needs of the common man.
” National Assembly budget. Before 2015, the budget of the National Assembly was N150billion for several years. It was cut down to N120bn in 2015 and further down to N115bn in 2016. In 2017, the budget was N125bn and N139.5bn in 2018. This means that the budget of the National Assembly is still far below the N150bn in the years before 2015.
“While we commend Mr. President for a good working relationship, we also wish to state that we have a job to do, which requires adequate funding as well. The additional costs and projects to the budget were done in good faith for the sole purpose of improving the lives of Nigerians.
” Finally, we welcome the proposal by Mr. President to forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly to address other areas of pressing demands and commend the President and the entire executive arm for a cordial working relationship.”
Buhari had while signing the N9.12trn budget said he was “compelled” to sign the document into law regretting that some provisions for critical sectors of the economy were reduced by the National Assembly.
President Buhari hinted of plans to submit a supplementary Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly to address the some of the shortcomings of the budget.
The Two presiding officers of the National Assembly, Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara were both conspicuously absent at the ceremony.
While Saraki is in Russia on official assignment, Dogara gave no reasons for his absence just as both were not represented at the signing ceremony.
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