Senate resumes Tuesday, postpones passage of 2018 budget
The Senate resumes on Tuesday and will adjourn a day or two afterwards, without passage of the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget.
However, the upper legislative chamber is expected to resume on January 9, 2018.
Recall that the Senate had suspended plenary on December 5, 2017 to enable its standing committees – sub-committees to the Appropriations Committee – to hold budget defence with Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Although Senate President Bukola Saraki had urged sub-committees to expedite action on the process and equally asked the Appropriations Committee to submit its report upon resumption by December 19, budget defence commenced a week behind schedule at slow pace.
As of the time of filing this report on Monday, MDAs that have so far defended their 2018 budgets include agencies under the Ministry of Information and Culture as well as Interior, Nigeria Police Force which were conducted in closed door, while budget defence for the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, National Agency for Control of Aids (NACA), National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission earlier scheduled for last week were postponed to this week.
Agencies under the Ministries of Trade and Investment as well as Power and Steel Development have also defended their budgets.
Over 200 MDAs are yet to conclude their 2018 budget defence.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari had in his budget presentation to a joint session of the National Assembly last month, called for expeditious passage of the budget to return to a more predictable January to December budget cycle, the development in both chambers implies that the January to December budget timeline is no longer feasible.
BusinessDay had earlier reported that the passage of 2018 budget estimates in 2017 was unrealistic.
Analysts say a third consecutive late passage of the budget by the National Assembly may alter Federal Government’s medium-term (2017 – 2020) Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
Nigeria has been experiencing delays in its budget process since the return to democratic rule in 1999, owing to power tussle between the Executive and the Legislature.
For instance, the 2011 budget was passed on March 25, 2011, while that of the following year was passed on March 14, 2012. For the 2013 budget, it was passed by the lawmakers on December 20, 2012 and signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in February 2013. Also, the 2014, 2015 and 2016 budgets were also signed in the month of May of the respective years. Similarly, the 2017 budget was passed by the National Assembly in May and signed into law by then acting President Yemi Osinbajo in June 2017.
In the same vein, legislative work on the remaining economic priority bills are expected to be postponed till 2018.
If passed into law, experts say the bills will help create 7.5million jobs and reduce poverty by 16.4 percent.
Of the 14 economic bills, only two – the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act (otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act) and Credit Reporting Act – have been passed by both chambers and signed by the President.
In early December, the upper legislative chamber passed the harmonised version of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill.
Other economic bills already passed by the Senate but awaiting concurrence from the House of Representatives include: the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill; Petroleum Industry Governance Bill; Federal Roads Authority Bill; Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency Bill; Nigeria Railway Bill; Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Bill and Nigerian Postal Commission Bill.
Those yet to be passed include: the National Roads Funds Bill; National Transport Commission Bill; National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill; Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) (Amendment) and Investment and Securities Act (Amendment) Bill as well as National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill.
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