Despite assurances by Senate President Bukola Saraki that the 2018 budget would be presented this week, both chambers of the National Assembly adjourned till Tuesday, May 15, 2018 without laying the proposal.
On Monday, Saraki had told State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly that the long-awaited federal budget would be laid within the week and passed by next week.
“Hopefully, it (the budget) should be laid this week. If it can be laid this week then it can be passed early next week but we are hoping it will be laid this week,” Saraki had stated.
However, at Wednesday plenary, both the Senate and the House of Representatives adjourned till Tuesday, April 15.
Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, who moved the motion for the adjournment at the upper legislative chamber, attributed the development to the forthcoming local government congress of the All Progressives Congress (APC) scheduled for this Saturday.
In the same vein, the House after the consideration of motions and adoption of the report of the House Committee on Justice on “A bill for an Act to amend the Extradition Act, 2004,” resolved to adjourn till next week Tuesday.
However, the issue relating to the 2018 budget was not mentioned throughout the session which was presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had submitted the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget estimates to a joint session of the National Assembly on November 7, 2017, with a call on the legislature to quickly pass the budget and return to January to December budget cycle.
However, six months after the presentation of the money bill, the National Assembly is yet to approve the document, even as Saraki attributed the delay to failure of heads of ministries, departments and agencies to defend the budget before their respective committees.
A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee revealed that the panel is already putting what he called ‘finishing touches’ to the document.
Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, disclosed that the budget will be laid on Tuesday next week and passed the following day – Wednesday.
“They are putting finishing touches to it (the budget). It was expected if they it like yesterday for example, we would consider it today. But because they have not been able lay it today (Wednesday), we are adjourning. So, which means next week for sure, when we come back on Tuesday, we will lay the report and by Wednesday we will approve it.
“What is holding them back is just one or two things to be sure that you need to do due diligence to be sure that everything adds up because if you make a mistake, that mistake can also be costly.
“The good thing is that it is a joint work between the House and the Senate. So, whatever is laid in the Senate would be exactly the same thing that will be laid in the House of Representatives. And we are going to consider it the same day,” the lawmaker said while addressing journalists after plenary on Wednesday.
This is the second time the leadership of the National Assembly has reneged on its promise to pass the budget.
In March this year, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had announced that the National Assembly would pass the 2018 budget on April 24.
The Speaker added that the joint Committees on Appropriations would lay the report on the budget in the two chambers on April 19 in readiness for the approval.
“The consideration and passage of the budget will be on April 24. The committees will submit their report on April 19 . This will be a harmonised report,” Dogara had announced.
However, neither the presentation nor consideration of the Appropriation Committee’s report took place on the two dates.
Analysts say while the 2018 budget can elevate Nigeria’s economy to new heights, they, however, expressed concern that with seven months to the end of the year and three months to the commencement of party primaries for the 2019 elections, the delay in implementation could negatively impact its performance.
Already, politics has taken centre stage and governance relegated to the back stage with the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari to seek reelection for second term.
BusinessDay also gathered that although the Body of Principal Officers – comprising key officers from both chambers – met at the office of the Senate President on Wednesday before commencement of plenary, the issue of the 2018 budget was not on the agenda.
One of the principal officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that issues discussed included the invasion of the Senate and theft of mace, disrespect for the institution of the National Assembly by appointees of President Buhari and the alleged inhuman treatment meted out to the embattled senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye.
“Who is talking about the budget when our institution has been desecrated by the President and his men”? the North Central lawmaker asked rhetorically.