The leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday says its decision to accommodate some of the new projects approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was to reduce the spate of abandoned projects across the country.
The developmental projects were approved after the presentation of N7.298 trillion budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 14th December, 2016.
One of the principal officers who pleaded anonimity in a chat with BusinessDay however ruled out the possibility of accommodating new projects from FEC, stressing that the Appropriation Committee has reached advance stage.
“As at now, it is not possible to accommodate any project from the Executive. But previously why we bent backward was to stop abandoned projects.
“If FEC has committees government in exciting some projects, so if you miss it in the coming budget, it’s either you are opening the room for abandoned projects or huge cause huge embarrassment for the government.
“As a responsible Parliament, it behooves on us to see that we capture them appropriately,” he said.
On whether the budget will be passed before the expiration of the May 5, 2017 timeline for the 2016 Appropriation Act, the lawmaker dismissed the possibility of passing the budget on Thursday, 4th May, 2017.
On his part, Emmanuel Orker-Jev, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Rule and Business, who ruled out any constitutional crisis on the delay in the passage of the 2017 appropriation bill, explained that the drafer of the Constitution had addressed the challenge.
“In the event that we are not able to pass the budget before May 5, the constitution provides that the executives can spend for six months, so there is no cause for alarm,” he noted.
In the vein, Kwewum Shawulu, chairman, House Committee on Defence said that Nigerians were being unduly apprehensive about the budget.
Shawulu (PDP-Taraba) explained that the delay in the passage of the 2017 budget will not impact negatively on the running of the government since the 1999 constitution as amended had taken care of the lacuna.
“I want Nigerians not to be worried about the budget. Even if the National Assembly did not pass the budget before the expiration of the 2016 budget, we will not have any crisis.
“People are not aware that the constitution provides that every budget should last for 12 calendar months.
“It the end of its lifespan, if there is no budget, the President can authorise expenditure from the nation’s treasury for a period not exceeding six months.
“In this case, the budget will expire on May 5 and hopefully we will pass the budget this month.
“The business of government will not be be grounded. The executive is allowed by law to spend money in absence of a budget,” he said.
In a separate interview, Babatunde Kolawole (APC-Ondo) has said that Nigerians have no need to worry as the National Assembly is aware of their expectations on the 2017 budget.
He said that the government was always the biggest spender in a country and the timely passage of the budget would further stimulate the economy.
“The National Assembly is always proactive in the interest of Nigerians. The budget, as you know, is the most important bill that concerns the whole country. So, it follows then that the National Assembly must be interested in passing the budget in a timely fashion.
“But don’t forget that even if the 2016 budget expires on May 5th, the Constitution has given the Executive the power to spend for the next six months. So, in the true sense of it, there would be no crisis.
“On the other hand, the right thing to do is to pass the budget at the right time and this is what we aim to do,” he said.
While acknowledging that the 2017 budget had its own challenges and had been delayed by a number of factors, he however noted that the House is obliged to factor the infrastructure needs of the people into the budget rather than passage for performing annual ritual.
“I am sure that Nigerians will be happy on the long run with the budget the National Assembly will present to the people,” Kolawole said.