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Monday, 11 April 2016

Presidency, Lawmakers Meet Over Budget

To avert a fresh lockdown on the 2016 Budget, a government delegation led by Minister of National Planning, Sen.  Udoma Udo-Udoma yesterday began talks with Speaker of the House of Representatives,  Yakubu Dogara and top leaders of the National Assembly.

Senate President  Bukola Saraki is expected to join the reconciliation team today (Monday) after cutting short his trip abroad.
But a  former Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, yesterday asked the Presidency and the National Assembly to avoid a budget showdown.
He said the budget impasse must not be allowed to proceed beyond now.
He said the absence of a National Development and Implementation Plan  is largely responsible for this annual budget imbroglio.
According to investigation, the two arms of government opened reconciliation talks to resolve the eight sticky points in the budget details forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday.
A top source said: “The Presidency and the National Assembly leaders on Sunday started talks on how to address the eight grey areas in the budget details sent to Buhari.
“I may not be able to give you the full list of those at the session but I know that the government delegation was led by the Minister of National Planning and the National Assembly’s team headed by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
“The two arms of government are trying to resolve all issues raised by the Executive amicably before the President returns from China.
“Certainly, the discussion so far on Sunday has been cordial. The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who travelled abroad has decided to cut short his trip in order to join the harmonisation talks.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “One of the issues which generated debate at the session was the lawmakers’ anger about the expunging of the Calabar – Lagos rail  line from the budget details.
“The lawmakers said the project was not part of the Appropriation Bill submitted by the President. They said they were shocked that the government could be scandalising  them in the press.
“But the government delegation insisted that it was part of the amendments submitted to the National Assembly after the padding was detected.”
The areas of talks last night are as follows:
  • Removal of the Coastal Railway project after N60b counterpart funding was provided
  • Expunging of the Calabar – Lagos rail  line
  • Reduction of votes for the completion Idu-Kaduna rail project by N8.7b
  • Drastic reduction of allocations for the completion of all major road projects,
  • NASS inclusion of new roads by which studies have not even been conducted.
  • Proposals made for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns like Polio    and AIDs  removed
  • Allocations  for diversification projects under Agriculture and Water Resources to were either removed or reduced
  • Diversion of funds to rural health facilities and boreholes for which provisions have been made before.
But a  former Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, yesterday asked the Presidency and the National Assembly to avoid the budget showdown which had been affecting  the country since 1999.
Adetunmbi, who made his views known in a statement in Abuja, said: “Legislative oversight on budget and appropriation should neither be a battle of wits nor a contest of will power. This appears to be what has informed the fiasco between the National Assembly and the Executive Arm of government.
“ It is rather confounding that the expected fraternal relationship that should exist between the Parliament and the Executive, controlled by the same party, has given way to a national en passé with negative consequences for the delivery of economic development which the change agenda promised the Nigerian people.
“Without prejudice to the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive and the Parliament, the timely passage of budget is a fundamental responsibility of state on which both arms must of necessity collaborate in the best interest of the nation, in furtherance of good governance and delivery of the dividends of democracy.
“ Given the nature of Nigeria’s ethno-religious plurality, our democracy must strive to be participatory and inclusive to avoid petty political schisms, the type we are currently witnessing. This can be achieved without compromising the time valued doctrine of constitutional separation of powers.
“The fighting for turf between parliamentarians and the Presidency on matters of national budget has been a harrowing recurring decimal and bone of contention since 1999.
“ It is neither new nor peculiar to the 8th Assembly and the Buhari Presidency. It is an excruciating debacle and foreboding culture that is detrimental to the implementation of any budget which must not be allowed to proceed beyond now.

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