Fred Itua, Abuja
For the first time since the return of the country to democratic rule in 1999, the National Assembly is set to commence a debate on the 2020 budget without carrying out any oversight function of capital components of the appropriation bill.
National Assembly is expected to kick-off debate on the budget when it resumes tomorrow, five months after the 2019 appropriation act was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The 2019 budget was passed by both chambers in April. Although it was laid before a joint session in December under a tensed atmosphere, the general elections held in February and March delayed its early consideration and passage.
Based on existing procurement laws, it takes a minimum of three months for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to conclude award of contracts.
Constrained by this law, the eighth National Assembly did not carryout any oversight functions before its expiration in early June.
Upon its inauguration on June 11, the ninth National Assembly did not constitute standing committees immediately.
The two chambers announced chairmen and vice chairmen late July. They thereafter embarked on their annual eight-week leave.
If President Muhammadu Buhari presents the 2020 budget as promised before end of September, lawmakers will be compelled to jettison planned oversight and focus on consideration and passage of the budget.
The delayed constitution of the membership of the 69 standing committees by the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, is also believed to have played a major role in the inability of chairmen and vice chairmen to carry out oversight functions during the long break.
It is also unclear if capital projects not executed in the 2019 budget will be rolled over to the 2020 budget, expected to be passed before Christmas.
Lawan had while briefing newsmen on Friday, revealed that the upper legislative chamber was already in possession of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) from the Executive.
Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has commended the National Assembly for its progressive relationship with the Presidency.
Ganduje made the commendation when leadership of the House of Representatives, led by the Speaker, Femi Gbajamiala, visited him at the Government House, yesterday in Kano.
The governor said that in order to take Nigeria to the next level, progressive relationship between the two arms of government was very important.
“We just finished discussing about the budget. The President would submit to the National Assembly, and I heard you just confirmed how soon that budget will be ready from the NASS.
“I think that is a progressive stand that you have taken and I am sure you will do everything possible to see that all unnecessary obstacles are been removed for a smooth passage of the national budget,” he said.
He thanked the speaker and his entourage for the visit and for the condolence over the death of the father of Hon. Shaaban Sharada, member representing Kano Municipal federal constituency.