Buhari yet to get 2018 budget from National Assembly

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President Muhammadu Buhari has yet to get a clean copy of the 2018 Appropriation Bill as passed into law by the two chambers of the National Assembly last week.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, disclosed this to State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Udoma said there was no truth in some reports quoting him as saying that the President would not sign the document as passed by the federal lawmakers.

The minister stated, “The President has yet to receive the budget. It is therefore impossible to make a statement about the budget that has not been received.

“Once we get it, we will work very quickly on it. When it is submitted, I am sure the National Assembly will inform Nigerians.”

The minister said from all indications, the nation’s economy was improving with the current Gross Domestic Product growth rate of 1.95 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The Senate at the plenary on Wednesday approved the Conference Committee’s report on the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which corrected errors in the versions passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly.

The errors bothered on grammar and syntax.

The National Assembly passed the N9.12tn budget last week Wednesday after the Appropriation Bill had spent more than six months with the legislature.

The final figure was raised by over N508bn from the initial estimates of N8.612tn that the President laid before lawmakers on November 7, 2017.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, identified and corrected various errors in the bill, while the Committees on Appropriations of both chambers formed a conference committee to harmonise the corrections.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, presented the Conference Committee’s report.

The House of Representatives also on Wednesday adopted the harmonised report on the 2018 budget, preparatory to Buhari’s assent.

With the adoption of the report, the budget is set for transmission to the President.

In its terse reply to the comments on the National Assembly by President Buhari, the House simply said he was entitled to his opinion about individual members of the legislature, so long as he did not refer to the entire National Assembly as a body.

Buhari had on Tuesday attacked former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration for allegedly spending $16bn on power generation without results.

Buhari, who did not mention any member by name, stated that some of them had spent 10 years in the National Assembly doing nothing.

But, the House spokesman, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, said Buhari was entitled to his opinion about the performance of individual members of the National Assembly.

The House of Representatives had said that a clean copy of the 2018 budget would be on the table of the President for assent within one week from the date of passage.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, had told The PUNCH on Sunday that the budget would have been sent to the President by Wednesday.

He had said there was not much work left to be done on the budget other than for the Senate and the House Conference Committees to meet and harmonise the differences in the document.

The Senate also on Wednesday considered a request by President Muhammadu Buhari for legislative confirmation of five nominees as members of the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The President had written to the Senate to confirm the appointments over one year ago.

Buhari had in March 2017 sought the Senate’s approval for the appointment of Prof. Ummu Ahmed Jalingo (North-East), Prof. Justitia Odinakachukwu Nnabuko (South-East), Prof. Mike Obadan (South-South), Dr. Abdu Abubakar (North-West) and Adeola Adetunji (South-West) as CBN board members.

Considering the request on Wednesday, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, referred the request to the Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions for the screening the nominees and mandated it to report back in two weeks.

The lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, had at the plenary on May 9, 2018 raised a point of order to urge the Senate to lift the embargo on executive appointments and confirm the nominees for the board of the CBN.

The Senate had placed an embargo on the consideration and confirmation of appointments not listed in Section 171 of the Constitution. This was to protest against the retention of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission despite the rejection of his appointment by the lawmakers.

Sani urged the Senate to be mindful of the fact that the work of the legislature would be lessened if there was a board that could perform an institutional oversight over the apex bank.

In his remarks on the prayer, Saraki had said, “We have taken note of your comments and we will look into it.”

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said the FEC approved a contract in respect of the ongoing Local Jajamata River Port Complex.

Amaechi said as the project was getting close to completion stage, he got approval for the procurement and installation of 64-tonne capacity mobile crane to help in cargo movement from vessels to the ports at a cost of €3.5m and another components of N203m and N69m for training.

“All together, it came to N1.6bn as the cost for the equipment,” the minister said.

According to Amaechi, the council also approved a transactional adviser to advise the government on the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway.

He added, “I have consistently said the state capitals these trains will run across will be Port Harcourt, Abia, Owerri, Umumahia, Enugu, Akwa, Abakiliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Damaturu, Yola and Maiduguri.

“The one from the central line will run from Abuja through Baru to Itakpe to Warri, with a seaport at Warri. Then, the one from Kano will pass through Maradi, Kazaure, Dutse, Daura, Katsina and Jibiya, and terminates at Maradi. And then the seaport in Warri.

“These special advisers are to advise us on the financial models and all that when we start our negotiations with the companies and the contractors. The contract is awarded at the cost of N280m.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the council also approved the award of a contract for the rehabilitation of the Ila Orangun-Oke-Ila Road in Osun State connecting Ekiti State at the cost of N5,195,176,195.50.

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