The National Assembly has responded to President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments on the 2018 Appropriation Bill which he signed into law today.
Buhari had among other issues condemned the addition of projects worth about N500 billion into the 2018 budget.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara were absent at the budget shining ceremony held at the presidential villa.
Saraki in Russia on the invitation of the country’s parliament, while Dogara has shared pictures of himself in class for a course at the London School of Economics.
But spokesman of the House of Representatives, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas in a statement sent to Frontlinenews Online, stated that parliament acted within its powers in tinkering with the budget.
Namdas in a swift response to the President’s observation, stated that the budget is a proposal by the Executive to the National Assembly, which the latter is given the constitutional power of appropriation to alter, make additions, costs or reduce as it deems necessary.
The statement read in part: “The Legislature is not expected to be a rubber-stamp by simply approving tpresident he Executive proposals and returning the budget to Mr. President. Therefore, the additions Mr. President complained of in his speech are justifiable.
“We are on the same page with Mr. President in his desire to return our budget cycle to January-December. By the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, the budget estimates should be with the National Assembly around September of the year.
“In the case of the 2018 budget, the estimates came behind schedule in November 2017, even though this attempt was seen as one of the earliest in recent years. Going forward, we urge the Executive to speed up the reporting time to the National Assembly by complying fully with the FRA”.
Namdas who chairs the House Committee on Media and Publicity, insisted that the heads of MDAs are to blame for the delays experienced in the budget process.
“Besides, there were delays that should be blamed on the heads of MDAs. Mr. President will recall that he had to direct ministers and heads of agencies to go to the National Assembly to defend their proposals.
“This came after the National Assembly had persistently raised the alarm over the non-cooperative attitudes of these government officials. On this grounds, the delay in passing the budget cannot be blamed on the legislature” he said .
“New projects in budget. On this aspect, we have to remind Mr. President that we are representatives of our people and wish to state that even the common man deserves a mention in the budget by including projects that will directly affect his life positively. Some of the projects designed by the executive, as high-sounding as their names suggest, do not meet the needs of the common man.
” Before 2015, the budget of the National Assembly was N150billion for several years. It was cut down to N120bn in 2015 and further down to N115bn in 2016. In 2017, the budget was N125bn and N139.5bn in 2018. This means that the budget of the National Assembly is still far below the N150bn in the years before 2015.
“While we commend Mr. President for a good working relationship, we also wish to state that we have a job to do, which requires adequate funding as well. The additional costs and projects to the budget were done in good faith for the sole purpose of improving the lives of Nigerians”, Namdas added.
The lawmaker said the National Assembly accepts the proposal by the President to forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly to address other areas of pressing demands.