Threat to 2018 budget presentation thickens
…As Saraki, Dogara move to douse tension
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA— STRONG indications emerged, yesterday, that the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate and House of Representatives may be threatened as lawmakers are poised to create tension and make the session very rowdy.
Vanguard gathered that majority of the lawmakers may protest, following their grievances over poor implementation of the 2017 budget, which they said was affecting them in their constituencies, just as they find it difficult to deliver to the constituents.
A source told Vanguard that the opposition to 2018 budget was in connection with poor implementation of 2017 budget by the executive, especially from the point of view that it would be the last budget before the 2019 elections.
It has also emerged that the increasing tension around the President’s bid to present the budget proposal had degenerated to the extent that some groups of lawmakers had begun to perfect strategies to truncate the presentation
The opposition, which cuts across political and ethno-regional boundaries in the National Assembly, anchored their protest against the budget presentation on what a lawmaker described as attempt by the executive arm of government to sabotage their political fortunes in their constituencies.
The source said: “How else can one’s political career be frustrated? Since 2015, we have never had a single budget that recorded 50 per cent success in terms of impelmentation, particularly with regards to capital projects.
“We had hoped that all these would be corrected in the 2017 budget but no. It is even worse. When we asked questions, no concrete response is forthcoming; and you expect us to just keep quiet and allow the President to present another budget that may go the same way?
“Remember that the 2018 budget is the last one to be executed fully by this administration. What will the President count as his legacy in terms of budget implementation? Also, take note that all these budget failures have very damning effects on members of the National Assembly, who are the real representatives of the people. What do they expect us to tell our constituents? It is really a sad moment for us.”
Saraki, Dogara move to reduce tension
To save the situation, a source told Vanguard that Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives and the leadership of the National Assembly have since, weekend, engaged in marathon meetings to reach out to their colleagues, pleading with them not to embarrass the President as he presents the budget today.
Besides the meeting held yesterday, the Senate President has also brainstormed with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, on the need for harmonisation between the Legislature and the Executive as a way of ensuring that both work in unison in the overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Also as part of moves to calm frayed nerves, a source told Vanguard that Saraki has concluded arrangements to hold an executive session before the final presentation of the budget to the joint session of the National Assembly by the President.
The action of the leadership of the National Assembly, according to the source, is to avert a situation where a rowdy situation may lead to a replay of what happened in May 2005 when Bashir Idris Nadabo of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, was the arrow head of a plot to commence impeachment proceedings against former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The move then got thickened in the House of Representatives, with 61 more lawmakers reportedly joining the campaign and brought the number to 161.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday, last week, written to the Senate, asking for a slot to address the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday , November 7, 2017 for the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
A copy of the letter titled “Laying of the 2018 Budget Proposal Before the National Assembly” addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, read in part: “Pursuant to Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution, may I crave the indulgence of the National Assembly to grant me the slot of 1400 hours on Tuesday, 7thNovember, 2017 to formally address the joint session of and lay before the National Assembly the 2018 budget proposal”.
It would be recalled that ahead of the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, President Buhari had last month forwarded the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP to the lawmakers.
In the document, the Federal Government plans to spend about N8.6tn next year, a jump of about 15 per cent from the N7.44tn budgeted for the current year.
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