• To pass bill next week
From Fred Itua, Kemi Yesufu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Almost six months after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly, the Senate yesterday received a harmonized and final report of the Appropriation Bill.
Buhari laid the budget on December 14, 2016. This was the longest time, since 1999, that the National Assembly would be passing a budget almost six months after it was presented.
The 2016 budget was laid on December 22, 2015. The first draft of the budget, rejected by Buhari, was passed in March 2016.
After the budget-padding imbroglio, the 2016 budget was eventually passed in April and was signed into law by the President on May 6, 2016.
If passed, this would also be the first time that both chambers of the National Assembly would be passing a harmonized budget since 1999, without recourse to a conference committee to resolve grey areas.
According to Senate rules, the budget would be considered and possibly passed on Thursday by both chambers of the National Assembly.
There were apprehensions last week, following the failure of the National Assembly to pass the budget.
The apprehensions were hinged on the fact that the 2016 budget ought to have expired on May 5, 2017.
However, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu explained:
“Let me inform the public as well that the tenure of the 2016 budget ends tomorrow (today) because it was signed into law on the 6th of May 2016, but under the constitution, the Federal Government is entitled to continue to spend money based on the 2016 estimates up to the 30th of June, 2017.”
In another development, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee Mustapha Dawaki yesterday laid the report on the 2017 Appropriation Bill.
The report on the N7,441,175,486,758 budget as stipulated on the Order Paper of Tuesday, 9th May, 2017 was laid during plenary.
The bill was referred to the committee on Thursday, January 26, 2017.
Copies of the report of the committee were expected to be circulated to members to study to enable them contribute to the debate when slated for consideration in the next legislative date.