Senate to Presidency: We won’t revisit budget based on omissions

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…urges executive to come up with supplementary bill

The Senate yesterday ruled out revisiting the 2016 Appropriation Bill for the purpose of capturing any omissions made by the executive in the draft document it sent to the National Assembly for approval.

Instead, the Upper Chamber advised President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the provisions of the constitution by signing the bill as passed by the parliament and then forward supplementary appropriation later to cover omissions recorded in the money bill. Briefing journalists after plenary, spokesman for the Senate, Aliyu Sabi, noted that the lawmakers discussed the budget issue during its closed-door session that lasted 50 minutes.

“Today, we have resumed plenary, having come back from our recess and, of course, we went into executive session which is the normal practice to welcome one another and discuss issues that we believe pertain to the burning issues on ground; in this case the issue of the 2016 budget and the smooth workings of the Senate and the National Assembly,” Sabi said. The lawmaker also insisted that the Calabar- Lagos rail project was not in the original document submitted to the National Assembly.

He stated that the Senate was sensitive to the plights of Nigerians and would always receive supplementary appropriations from the executive whenever it brought such on any imported projects omitted in the main budget.

“I want to assure you that the Senate is not unmindful of the cries of Nigerians; that we said for example the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not in the budget does not, in any way, undermine the fact that it is a very important project for this nation to embark on. “And so, the National Assembly, the Senate is open if the executive brings a supplementary appropriations with respect to these and any other issue that they feel very strongly about.

We are ready and willing to consider such, but the most important point to note is that we want to remain guided by the provisions of the constitution,” he stated. He said that passing the budget by the National Assembly was only the first step in the budget process, pointing out that the lawmakers were going to enter into the second stage of oversight. “Now, one thing that is obvious is that yes, we have passed the budget; Nigerians are asking what next for us? What is important now is for the budget to be signed.

The constitution has taken note of this kind of scenario where you may have omissions or shortfalls of allocations and Section 81 of the constitution is very clear on what you need to do which is to sign the budget and then submit a supplementary appropriation.

“I think if we do that, all these raging controversies will be off our back and we can all concentrate and put our energies to begin the process of implementing the 2016 budget so that those dividends of democracy: the youth unemployment, the empowerment of women, the social intervention programme, the infrastructural and agricultural programmes and other projects will be addressed,” he said.

He also made clarifications on the statement issued by the Senate on Monday on the controversies over the 2016 budget. Sabi, however, explained that the statement was not and should not be interpreted as a confrontation to the executive, but rather a clarification on the true state of affairs pertaining to the issues raised by the Presidency on the bill.

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