National Assembly to pass 2016 budget today by John Ameh and Sunday Aborisade, Abuja – After weeks of delay, both chambers of the National Assembly received a report on the 2016 budget on Tuesday from the Senate and the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Appropriation.
The report retained the corrected total budget figure of N6.07tn as presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
There were strong indications that the two chambers of the National Assembly would pass the 2016 budget today (Wednesday).
The federal lawmakers, who had earlier slated last week for the submission of the report, postponed it because of fresh errors they said were discovered in the fiscal document.
In the Senate, the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, presented the report of the budget on the floor of the upper chamber.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Education (Basic), Senator Aliyu Wamakko, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the budget would be considered and passed today (Wednesday).
He said the Senate might possibly hold two sessions on Wednesday to enable it to pass the fiscal document.
He said, “We have perfected necessary arrangements to ensure that the budget is considered and passed before we proceed on recess tomorrow (Wednesday).’’
The PUNCH learnt that the Senate would proceed on Easter Break on Wednesday as a result of the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, which resumes at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday.
In the House of Representatives, investigations by The PUNCH indicated that many lawmakers raised doubts as to whether the report contained padded provisions.
Members reportedly “grumbled” that there was no verifiable information on the several meetings on the budget held between the National Assembly’s joint committee and the officials of the executive, led by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.
“There were several meetings the officials held with the executive in their bid to clean up the errors in the budget.
“Those meetings did not provide details of the outcome; members still cannot vouch for this report, that it does not contain padded provisions in spite of the efforts made to clean up the budget”, a National Assembly official disclosed to The PUNCH.
It was gathered that the suspicion of padded provisions was the “real reason” the joint committee failed twice to produce the report of the budget before Tuesday.
The development confirmed an exclusive report by The PUNCH last week that fresh discrepancies were delaying the submission of the report.
Findings showed that in a bid to bring the matter under control, the various caucuses of the House held marathon meetings up to Monday night, where the members were said to have been briefed on the need to accept the budget so that government activities could move forward.
It was learnt that the meetings were rounded off by a meeting of the leadership of the House on Monday night and another meeting on Tuesday morning few hours to the commencement of sitting.
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, presided over the leadership meeting, which also had in attendance the House Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as other principal officers.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, claimed that there were no new discrepancies in the budget.
“There is no problem at all; the report has been laid,” he stated.
He admitted that a budget could not be “100 per cent perfect”, adding that the final report was the painstaking effort of the joint committee.
The House had planned to receive the report on Monday and pass the budget, but had to suspend the consideration in honour of a member, who died over the weekend.
The late member, Mr. Musa Onwana, represented Nasarawa State in the House.
Dogara, who presided over the session, only allowed the report to be laid due to “overriding national interest.”
He called that the House should adjourned till Wednesday (today) for the consideration and possible passing of the budget.
Members later observed a minute’s silence in honour of their late colleague and also prayed for the repose of his soul.