Senate vows to end double budget year
The leadership of the 9th Senate has expressed its determination to end the two-year budget cycle, saying that they are upbeat to receive the 2020 appropriation bill from the executive arm anytime from now.
In separate interviews, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, confirmed that as they resume from their recess today, the lawmakers are resolved to work hard to return the budget to the January to December cycle.
This is just as the Director-General of National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, disclosed that plans have reached advanced stage for the establishment of a ‘Democracy Radio’ as part of its efforts at promoting citizens’ awareness on the tenets of democracy in the country.
Sulaiman, who addressed NILDS’s staff as part of activities marking his 100 days in office, said the institute, which presently operates from the highbrow axis of Maitama in Abuja, has no option than to move to the permanent site to save costs.
He remarked that the institute has been providing support to legislative committees and legislators on the bill process cycle through Bill Drafting, Bill Analysis, Bill Scrutiny, brief of argument/lead debates, and bill tracking, stressing that the permanent site would offer the much-needed infrastructure to effectively respond to the institute’s responsibilities.
“Within the past 100 days,” he stated, “the institute has drafted 15 bills and analysed over 70 bills, in addition to 34 drafted motions, 10 legal-issue briefs, five briefs of argument as well as building a robust databank for National Assembly members.”
Further, he expressed the hope that more legislators would take advantage of the institute’s programmes to hone their legislative skills.
His stated: “As part of our efforts to foster mutually beneficial partnerships with parliaments around the world, NILDS has within the period met with the High Commissioner of Malaysia to Nigeria as well as the Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria to explore ways of promoting the acquisition of tacit knowledge embedded in legislative practice.
“Consequently, the Parliament of Malaysia has agreed to facilitate an Exchange of Experience visit for staff of NASS and NILDS to its parliament in the fourth quarter of 2019. Among inroads recorded within the period include the training of legislators of the parliaments of Uganda and The Gambia in line with the quest to advance democratic governance in Africa.”
Prof. Sulaiman assured that leaning on the successes of these workshops, the institute would continue to ensure that it is better positioned to serve as a knowledge hub for parliaments within and outside the ECOWAS sub-region to benefit from.
The Senate leaders argued that the former system, where budgets are unduly delayed till the middle of the year creates room for lots of loopholes and corruption, leading to lack of accountability, insisting, “We must avoid operation of two or three budgets at the same time.”
The Senate leader said over the years there were certain times when the country operated about two or three different budgets at the same time, noting that that disorganizes financial operations, not only for companies, but also for government.
According to him, “If you are operating in both the 2018 and 2019 budget at the same time when you have not even planned expenditure on so many lines on the treasury, what money is the treasury releasing, is it releasing money for 2018 or money for 2019?
“You find out that you have so many kinds of unnecessary movement of finances and expenditure of government that is not in the interest of the public and it is not in the interest of the legacy that this government is trying bring about.”
The majority leader therefore appealed to the executive arm to submit the budget immediately, assuring, “if that is done we are going to see how we can get the committees to start work immediately, so we can get the budget out before the National Assembly closes for Christmas vacation.”
He said the fact remains that the National Assembly was returning the financial year back to where it should be from January to December, adding, “This is very important and very vital for an economy like Nigeria’s, where at least about 60 per cent of economic activities are dependent on the direction of Federal Government’s expenditure and its expenditure patterns.
“If there is no certainty about the economic cycle of the government expenditure, businesses, households among others, nobody can really sit down and plan properly as businesses don’t like unpredictability.”
While contending that businesses want everything to be predictable, Senator Abdullahi added: “If we can return the economic and financial year to the normal January to December cycle, it will enable businesses and companies to plan their operations.
“Whether they can now employ more people, what do they want to buy? so that they can plan their operations in good time. But when the pattern of government expenditure and duration cannot even be determined, then you have a problem there. The economy cannot really move the way it should be.”
The Senate President, Lawan, who spoke to reporters shortly after his arrival from a private visit abroad, said he has been notified that the executive arm was working assiduously to ensure that the 2020 appropriation bill is presented to the National Assembly by the end of this month.
He said the National Assembly would work so hard to ensure that the 2020 budget is passed before we go on Christmas break, adding that the budget is one issue the National Assembly will take head-on to ensure that the undesirable trend of the budget is reversed.
“We believe this can be achieved, as doing so would make the economy better and predictable. We also think an early passage of the 2020 appropriations bill will have a desirable impact on Nigerians,” the Senate President noted.
He disclosed that the Executive has already forwarded to the Senate the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which will be considered immediately, adding, “We hope to take on the MTEF within the first legislative week.
“Our committee on Finance will be saddled with its first major responsibility that it works expeditiously on the Fiscal Strategy Paper/Medium Term Expenditure Framework’s request of the Executive arm and thereafter the budget will come after that.”
On the immediate, Senator Lawan said the ninth National Assembly would work assiduously with the executive to improve the security situation of the country, stressing that the Senate will also evaluate the crisis that affected Nigerians living in South Africa.
“In the 8th Senate, we had an Ad-Hoc Committee that I was privileged to chair, to review the security architecture of the country. We are going to look into that report, and in addition, other contemporary issues that affect security in the country.”
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