Nigeria's Senate to pass 2019 budget on April 16 - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Nigeria's Senate to pass 2019 budget on April 16

The Senate on Tuesday said it would pass the 2019 budget on April 16, and adjourned sitting for one week to give room for its committee to present reports on the budget.

This followed the inability of the committee to submit its report on the budget as proposed when the Senate adjourned on March 20.

Announcing the committee’s position, its Vice Chairman, Sonni Ogbuoji (APC, Ebonyi), said less than 10 committees out of over 60 had submitted their budget reports and urged the upper chamber for a two weeks extension.

“Our report is not ready because some committees are yet to submit their reports.

“For now we have less than 10 committees that have submitted their reports.

“We actually requested that they submit their reports last week, but since we do not have the reports we want to extend it to Friday this week latest.

“So we are asking for two weeks. If they submit by Friday the reports should be ready in two weeks’ time.

“I plead that the House empowers the committee to go with the executive position for committees that fail to submit their reports,” he said.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, urged the committee to tidy up its report and lay it latest on April 11, to enable the House pass the budget on April 16.

“We suspended sitting so that today the Appropriation Committee can lay its report for consideration.

“We must make sure they submit latest Friday. So let us agree that they will submit on Friday and we will suspend plenary by one week till April 9.

“We should be able to reconvene here on April 9 and latest April 11 to lay the report and pass the budget latest on April 16.

“We have the Easter break coming. So we do not have the luxury of time,” he said.

He warned that any standing committee that did not comply with the deadline would have itself to blame, adding that the Senate would in such case resort to executive position on the budgets.

The Senate on March 20 adjourned plenary to April 2 to enable its standing committees attend to heads of ministries, departments and agencies’ (MDAs) budget defence and for the committee on appropriation to lay its report.

President Muhammadu Buhari has communicated his non-assent to Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, 2018.

The president also declined assents to seven other bills forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February.

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, made the announcement at plenary on Tuesday.

He said several reasons, including infractions and duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies and financial constraints, were cited in separate letters for the non-assent.

Buhari in the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill letter, dated March 19, 2018, said appropriating 1 billion dollar from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as requested for in the bill is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.

“The nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long term social and economic impact that the funds can be alternatively deployed.

“Bills seeking to make appropriation of revenues to fund public expenditure should be consolidated in the annual Appropriation Act.

“Such that these proposals pass through the traditional scrutiny that budget proposals are subjected to by the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.

“Furthermore, as the Excess Crude Account Funds belong to the federation, it would be proper to consult with the National Economic Council where the states are represented,” he said.

He added: “Relevant stakeholders such as the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development, Industry, Trade and Investment were not fully consulted.
“The inputs of key stakeholders are necessary to create the optimal legal and regulatory framework as well as institutional mechanism to adequately regulate the steel sector.”

In another letter dated March 27 and denying assent to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill, 2018, the president cited section 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as one of the reasons for refusing assent.

“Section 32 of the bill, introduces a two and half percent levy on the profit before tax of the target companies which will increase the tax burdens of the companies while offering no direct benefit to them.

“A one percent levy on imports, which will also add to the cost of doing business in the country.

“A five percent levy on luxury goods, which duplicates efforts by the Federal Ministry of Finance to raise excise on such goods in a more sustainable manner to the benefit of the Federal Government treasury,” he said.

The letter added that if signed into law, the agency would have similar objectives to the Bank of Industry (BoI) particularly with regard to the funding of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Other bills Buhari declined assents to are the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2018 and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018.

Others are the National Housing Fund Bill 2018, National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018 and National Bio-Technology Development Agency Bill 2018.

Meanwhile, President Buhari for the second time has said the National Assembly inflated the debt figures to be repaid by the Federal Government to some states.
He asked the lawmakers to send details of the amounts they approved for Delta and Taraba states.

He said he would go ahead to pay the amount earlier approved by the Federal Executive Council and not the National Assembly figure.

The debt repayment in promissory notes is for projects executed on behalf of the Federal Government by various state governments.

A promissory note is a debt instrument which one party promises in writing to pay a determinate sum of money to the other, either at a fixed or determinable future time, under specific terms.

His request was communicated via a letter which was read out by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday.

In the letter, Buhari pointed out that the total amount approved by the National Assembly to Delta and Taraba states was higher than the amount approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

He also said the National Assembly did not approve reimbursement to Bauchi and Kogi states after FEC approved reimbursements for them.

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