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Friday, 4 November 2016

Executive vs Legislators Crises Deepens; Senate Dump Buhari’s ‘Empty’ 2017 – 2019 MTEF


The Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday continued their Executive bashing. The Senate threw out President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2017 to 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).

It described the fiscal document which is a prelude to the presentation of the 2017 budget as “completely empty”, not worthy of its consideration.
At the House of Representatives, a motion to probe the Presidential Panel on Arms Procurement was launched.
On Tuesday, the senate rejected the President’s bid to borrow $29.96 billion to reflate the economy.
Senate Leader Ali Ndume, drew the attention of the Senate to a publication where the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma reportedly blamed the National Assembly for the inability of the Presidency to present the 2017 budget last month as promised.
 Ndume who relied on Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules, prayed the Senate to resolve to call Udoma to order.
 He noted that the Presidency had started once again the blame game that rubbished the 2016 budget.
 He said that it was wrong for the Presidency to give Nigerians the impression that the National Assembly was responsible for the avoidable delay in presentation of the 2017 budget especially when it was obvious that the MTEF submitted to the National Assembly was “empty”.
 The Senate Leader noted that when the leadership of the Senate discovered that the MTEF was empty, Udoma was invited to brief the leadership on grey areas of the MTEF/FSP on Tuesday.
 He said that the Senate leadership was stunned when Udoma failed to honour the invitation.
 He also the minister failed to submit vital documents the Senate requested from him.
 The Senate Leader who displayed a copy of the MTEF repeatedly said furiously, “this document is empty, it is completely empty and you cannot build something on nothing.”
Ndume said:   “As the Leader of this Senate and I am responsible for presenting communications, bills from the Executive. You will recall that we received the MTEF on 30th September. Instead of submitting it according to law not later than 1st of September, that is not even the problem.
“I went through and the copies have been circulated. I talked to some experts. Even in this chamber, we have people that you can call experts. If you look at this document that they call MTEF, it is empty. And it doesn’t contain anything. If you have nothing how do you consider nothing?
“Going through and knowing that it is empty, on October 19, 2016 I wrote to the Minister of Budget and National Planning. The minister failed to turn up.
“Before then, I said you are requested to please send the following documents ahead of the meeting because that is what will make us have something to consider: draft copy of Medium Term Development Plan upon which the 2017 to 2019 MTEF is founded.
“Secondly, I requested that a comprehensive report on the implementation of 2016 budget as of third quarter. And thirdly, fiscal rates taxes, charges etc used to derive the projected revenue.
“Finally, a report on the structure, composition of the debt, funding, sources, how the borrowed funds are to be spent as well as repayment plan and schedule.
 “We cannot afford to start the 2017 budget process with this blame game. This Senate is the Nigerian Senate. We have the opposition that is co-operating with us and we have the majority in this Senate.
“So, it is not like we are working against the government but we know what we are doing. And we should do it right. When they bring nothing and we ask for something so that we will do it properly, they run to the newspaper to start blaming the National Assembly.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki said the minister denied blaming the National Assembly for the delay in presenting the 2017 budget.
 He said that the Senate should be mindful of issues that could breed controversy ahead of the presentation of the 2017 budget.
 Saraki said: “I saw this article too. I had taken up the Minister and he denied the article. He said he was going to debunk it. Be that as it may, I think the matter should not be stressed.
 “The Leader has made the point that this issue of blame game is totally unnecessary. And if he (Udoma) that he is withdrawing, that means he has said it as well that the National Assembly is not responsible for any delay.”
 Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, assured that the National Assembly was ready to receive the 2017 budget from the Presidency any day.
 Ekweremadu said, “Now that the statement has neither been denied nor withdrawn, we need to tell Nigerians the truth. We are here on a full job. We are ready to take the budget presentation anytime. In doing so, the executive must be reminded that everything must be done right. All arms of government must live to its responsibility. The issue of blame game should be put behind us.”
 Senate spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi wondered “if this government is not padded with people who want to frustrate the government.”
But Udom denied both the statement credited to him and the accusation by Ndume that he snubbed the senate.
A statement last night by Media Adviser to the Budget and national Planning Minister, Mr Akpandem James, said:    “The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma has expressed surprise at the accusation by the Senate leader, Senator Ali Ndume, to the effect that he snubbed the Senate and refused to turn up for a scheduled meeting on November 1, 2016.
 “While acknowledging receipt of the letter from Senator Ndume inviting him for a meeting with the Senate leadership, the Minister said the meeting was eventually moved by agreement; and wondered why Senator Ndume would go on the floor of the upper legislative chamber to say he failed to turn up, when he was aware that the meeting was rescheduled.
 “Senator Udoma was equally surprised that even after the newspaper that published the story, which quoted him as blaming the National Assembly for the delay in the presentation of the 2017 budget, has published that the reporter never spoke with the Minister, Senator Ndume still went ahead to make an issue out of the matter on the floor of the Senate.”

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