Teddy Nwanunobi and Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja
The February 25, earlier scheduled deadline for the passage of the 2016 Budget by the National Assembly, will no longer be realistic, as it was on Tuesday postponed indefinitely.
Making this known at a joint briefing at the National Assembly, the duo of the Chairmen of the joint Committees on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon. Abdulmunin Jibrin, blamed the unrealistic passage of the Budget to discrepancies and errors inherent in the Budget proposals.
Leading the address to brief Nigerians on the level of the 2016 Budget proposals so far, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Goje, who maintained that the 2016 Budget passage would no longer be feasible, however, could not give a new date for the passage of the Budget.
“We are here in connection with the ongoing processing of the 2016 Budget defence and because these two committees are the ones saddled with the production of the final copies of the Budget that would be passed by the two houses for onward submission to Mr. President for his asset and subsequent implementation, and because of the observed instances that are being reported from the beginning of the Budget submission. There are a lot of controversies surrounding the Budget. We feel that we have to come here, interact with you, make some clarifications that Nigerians would know the correct situation of things regarding the 2016 Budget.
“We designed a timetable for the consideration and passage of the Budget, and that particular timetable that we will pass the Budget on February 25, 2016. But as you are all aware, a lot of issues have come up, and gladly so even, the executive arm of government has also come out to accept the fact that there has been a lot of errors in the Budget.
“Again, during the Budget defence, a lot of issues, based on the padding of the Budget arising from over bloated overhead, and in some instances, cases of over bloated personnel cost. But generally, there has been a lot of issues. The Appropriation Committees would look at these issues, after the whole Budget defence to do a very thorough work aimed at doing a proper clean up of the Budget.
“To liaise with all the stakeholders to enable us pass the Budget that is implementable. Budget that is hood from the perspective of the legislature and also acceptable to the executive arm of the government.
“So, in summary, the timetable for the passage of the Budget is no longer realistic because Appropriation committees of both chambers of the National Assembly. We need additional time to be able to do a thorough job for the 2016 Budget,” he said.
Goje added the joint Committees on Appropriation would not like the Budget to be thrown back to the National Assembly based on some ambiguities.
“We want to remove all ambiguities. We want to remove all paddlings. We want to produce a budget that is in line with the constitutional requirement.
“Again, in terms of capital expenditure, there are complaints coming from different quarters, arising from the imbalance from the capital allocation, and of course disagreement among the ministers and the civil servants in the various ministries that we have witnessed during the period of Budget defence.
These, all together, form enough basis for us to sit down and ensure that a thorough job is done before the Budget is passed,” he added.
Jibrin further explained that the National Assembly’s Appropriation committees desire to do a proper clean up of the Budget.
“So, we can pass a budget that is implementable and also acceptable. It is no longer realistic because we need sufficient time to pass a comprehensive budget.
“The President (Muhammadu Buhari) is an individual. The Budget runs in thousands of pages. The President will not be able to go through it page-by-page, “Jibrin added.
He explained that once the Budget is passed, it would run for a 12-month period to ensure that the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) will implement it.
When asked on the disowning of the Ministry of Health’s Budget by the Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Jibrin said that the National Assembly would not tolerate the withdrawing of a budget by the executive.