*Orders affected agencies to discontinue capital expenditures
*Commences review of Fiscal Responsibility Act
From: FRED ITUA, Abuja
Barely 48 hours after Senate President Bukola Saraki criticised the posture of the Federal Government’s anti-corruption war, the Senate, has issued a two-week ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari, to submit, without fail, the 2017 budgets of 38 statutory agencies.
In the same vein, the Senate has ordered the 38 agencies to discontinue further expenditures of capital budgets, pending the submission of their respective 2017 budgets.
The position of the Senate was reached, following the adoption of a motion tagged, “Non-submission of 2017 budget by public corporations in violation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act”, sponsored by the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
On Tuesday, the Red Chamber had expressed shock that despite the fact that the President Buhari-led Federal Government continues to lay claim to waging a war against corruption, agencies of the same government kept breaching the basic rules of corruption.
Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, while speaking on the issue, said the matter in question is not only an infraction of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, but the constitution.
He quoted extensively certain portions of the constitution which prohibit the withdrawal of monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, except in a manner, prescribed by the National Assembly.
He said: “We must be begin to show that we operate by the laws we make. We cannot be going back and forth. It is our responsibility to compel the agencies concerned to submit their budgets for approval.
“We must give agencies an ultimatum to agencies to submit their budgets for appropriation by the National Assembly.”
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Na’Allah in his earlier argument, said: “Non-compliance to the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act constitutes abuse of power and economic sabotage, aimed at frustrating the current economic measures been taken by the present administration to address economic recession.
“The absence of penalties in the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, may have emboldened and encouraged the perpetuation of this Act. The Fiscal Responsibility Commission is failing in its responsibility through complacence in the execution of this mandate.”
Senator George Sekibo, in his remarks, said one of the functions of the executive, is to ensure that the laws are obeyed. He said the failure of agencies to submit their budgets for appropriation is a gross misconduct. “They are spending public money,” he said.
As part of measures to guide against future abuses, the Senate also resolved to urgently amend the Fiscal Responsibility Act, to penalise infractions.
Similarly, Saraki has told heads of the various standing committees to discontinue work on already submitted budgets of the affected agencies. He said until President Buhari submits the budgets in accordance with Section 21 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, any exercise by the committees will be voided.
He said: “Truly, this motion is at the heart of this fight against corruption and it is very important. The amount of money independent revenue exceeds how much we get from oil revenue.
“So, it is a huge amount to our revenue line and even we are talking about looking for money to fund projects, hospitals, education etc, this is where the source of the revenue is. I cannot see how we can continue in a society where we are fighting corruption and people will be spending money without approval, without appropriations. This must stop. It will stop and is going to stop from now.
“Clearly, we have made our position that based on this amendment, these agencies must get their budgets to us in two weeks. For committee chairmen, I want to appeal that once we get the budget on our own part, let us ensure that we do it in public and very diligently. We should try and turn it around as quick as possible.”
Among those agencies which are to submit their budgets for approval to the National Assembly are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASEI), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
Others are the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), National Maritime Authority (NMA), Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Nigerian Postal Service (NPS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The list also include the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), National Communications Commission (NCC), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Others are National Insurance Commission (NIC), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC), Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Radio Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), Federal Mortgage Bank, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), as well as Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGZFA).