N’Assembly sends budget details to Buhari

The National Assembly Joint Committee on Appropriation laid the details of the 2016 budget on Wednesday.

The details of the budget were submitted to the Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa, around 5.07pm by the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin.

Following the procedure, Maikashuwa will transmit the 1,800-page document to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking after laying the details, Jibrin told journalists that the committee worked for days to clean up the budget and break down the details.

Jibrin stated that having completed its assignment, the National Assembly expected Buhari to play his own part by signing the budget, which was passed on March 23.

Asked whether the details were exactly the content Buhari submitted to the National Assembly, Jibrin replied that the legislature used its power of appropriation to allocate resources in the budget.

He added, “We have worked on the details. Naturally, there will be inputs from the lawmakers and there will be inputs from the executive.

“Our job is to find a middle course. We have done our part and we expect Mr. President to play his own part.”

The Senate and the House had passed a harmonised budget of N6.06tn on March 23.

The Appropriation Bill was forwarded to the Presidency within 24 hours of the passage by the National Assembly.

However, Buhari declined to sign the bill, insisting on seeing the details before appending his signature to the budget.

The respective appropriation committees of the Senate and the House quickly acknowledged the President’s position, but observed that he could have signed and still get the details later.

The President stood his ground, insisting on getting the details.

The committees later assured Buhari that the details would get to him in a week’s time.

The harmonised figure of N6.06tn passed by the National Assembly was about N17bn less than the initial N6.07tn proposed by Buhari.

The National Assembly had retained most of the projections of the President, including the $38 proposed as the crude oil benchmark.

Oil price improved marginally to between $40 and $41 per barrel when the budget was passed on March 23.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on Wednesday asked President Buhari to guard against the pressure of assigning top administration officials to read the details of the 2016 budget before passing over their findings to him.

They said the President should be prepared to read the details himself, else he might still face the problem of discrepancies in figures he had tried to avoid by delaying the signing of the budget.

One of the members, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, said information passed to the President could still be distorted if he had to rely on the same bureaucrats who introduced the distortions to read the details to be sent to him by the National Assembly.

Nkem-Abonta spoke in Abuja just as the budget details were laid by the joint committee.

He stated, “Will President Buhari read the details of the budget by himself or some persons will look into the details for him?

“If he is not going to read the details himself, I am afraid, he may not avoid what he has been running away from -that there should be no errors.

“If someone has to do the reading for him, what is the guarantee that other errors will not be added? The President seems pre-occupied that he really cannot read the details himself.

“We know that he was once beaten and doesn’t trust anybody anymore. But, will he read it himself?”

Nkem-Abonta also spoke on the proposed bid to delete Host Community Fund from the Petroleum Industry Bill, warning that it could only worsen the restiveness in communities where crude oil production took place.

Meanwhile, in a statement by the committee, which is jointly chaired by Senate Danjuma Goje and Jibrin, it explained that the details were delayed because of the errors and discrepancies that came with the budget from the Executive.

The joint committee commended Buhari for showing leadership by intervening to penalise some of the bureaucrats who introduced the errors into the budget.

“Some officials in the executive branch have also been removed from their duty posts because of these glaring lapses. That happened because the President took direct responsibility and got involved in the process, not only to ensure synergy between the executive and the legislature but that we could both arrive at a budget that is implementable for the good of all Nigerians”, it added.

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