The Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has confirmed that the National Assembly has not forwarded the details of the 2016 Appropriations Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He pointed that it was a regular practice of the National Assembly to send details to the president weeks after passing the budget, saying there was nothing wrong for the president to sign the budget without seeing the details.
In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Jibrin said it was the tradition of the National Assembly to scrutinize the details of the budget before they forward it to the Presidency.
The general public should note that the MTEF and 2016 budget proposal came to NASS very late. You will also recall that a lot of dust was raised over different versions of the budget circulated in the national assembly. Further, some ministers disowned the content of the budget during defence before NASS.
Amid these inconsistencies and discrepancies, the NASS had been deeply engrossed in perfecting the anomalies, ironing out of the wrinkles and stretching the twists inherent in the 2016 appropriation bill.
In order for the nation to move forward and avoid stagnation of administrative processes, the tradition is that the bill is passed and forwarded to the presidency for assent, while the lawmakers continue to work on the details. There is nothing abnormal about this practice and yet nothing abnormal about a president assenting a budget before or after seeing the details. In any case, the budget details are usually sent within a week or two after passing the budget.
In view of the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding that characterised the 2016 Budget, it would be unpatriotic of NASS to forward the budget details without being extra-careful, meticulous and cautious in discharging its duties. This is to ensure we do not make same mistake that the executive made.
The Appropriation committee needs to scrutinize the original proposal sent by the president vis-à-vis the reports of various Standing Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate to arrive at a clean copy of the budget details. This will in no way affect any envelop already passed or the aggregate expenditure.
The NASS holds the President in high esteem and will continue to support him. There were several instances where we demonstrated our support to the present administrations in the past.
At the risk of sounding immodest, the NASS approved the President’s Special Advisers without hitch, approved ministerial nominees without rancour, approved Supplementary Budget without delay and displayed a rare show of patriotism in the receipt and passage of the 2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and budget.
The 2016 Budget is the most challenging budget the NASS has ever passed in its recent history. Taking into account the many controversies and omissions, particularly in NYSC, Prisons, Pensions, personnel shortfalls, among others, the budget failed in many respects to connect with the policy thrust of the government.
The NASS Appropriation Committees worked round the clock to address some of the omissions, bring up to date allocations in the budget towards the policy direction of Mr. President, particularly issues relating to security, anti-corruption and economic diversification.
Given the foregoing efforts, it is therefore unfair for accusing fingers to be pointed at NASS when the Presidency defers or delays assent to the budget. Nowhere in the world that a budget is presented to the Parliament, and expect it to be passed warts and all without subjecting it to the rigours of scrutiny, debate and painstaking processes and inputs of the parliament.
The NASS will continue to exercise its constitutional duty of appropriation to the latter. While recognising the President’s power to withhold assent, the NASS is also constitutionally required and has power to veto. But we don’t want that to happen and we don’t see this happening in this case.
It is obvious that some fifth columnists are crying wolf where there is none and are also bent on creating friction and disharmony between the NASS and the Presidency.