Exactly two weeks ago, both chambers of the National Assembly (NASS), adjourned plenary for consideration of N10.33 trillion 2020 budget proposals at committees’ level with intension of resuming fully today. Will that be possible for them in the face of budget defence sessions at that level not yet ended? Taiye Odewale reports.
Oct 29 deadline
Ahead of their plan to pass the N1.33trillion 2020 Appropriation Bill for third reading before embarking on Christmas break in December, both the Senate and the House of Representatives penultimate Tuesday, adjourned plenary for their various standing committees to interface with agencies under their legislative purview for budget defence sessions.
Although as planned, budget defence sessions at that level, have been on at both chambers, since Tuesday, October 15, 2019, the very day they adjourned plenary, but it has not ended by now as programmed in the time table rolled out to that effect.
In the time table read on the floor of the Senate penultimate Tuesday, by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, the budget defence sessions the various committees are to hold with federal government owned ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), should be from Tuesday, October 15, 2019 to Monday, October 28, 2019.
Lawan while making the announcement said: “It is expected that all the relevant standing committees of the Senate, use the two weeks for the required interface with agencies under their purview as regards consideration of the 2020 budget proposals.
“The executive arm of government is on the same page with us on the expeditious consideration and passage of the 2020 budget, the very reason President Muhammadu Buhari directed that all ministers and heads of the various MDAs, must make themselves available for the budget defence sessions.
“The sessions are expected to end on Monday, 28th October 2019 and reports from the various committees submitted to the appropriation committee latest by Tuesday, 29th October, 2019 for plenary to resume fully towards addressing other very important issues in the land requiring legislative interventions.
“The Appropriation Committees of both chambers are expected to from Tuesday, October 29, 2019, to Monday, November 25, 2019 put the reports together for final considerations at plenaries”.
Will the deadline be met?
But at both chambers, considerable numbers of the standing committees are yet to hold the budget defence sessions with agencies under their oversight jurisdiction largely due to lack of space to host such a gathering. Some of those committees at the Senate wing are the ones on culture, privatisation, information etc.
While committees on privatisation and information, had during the busy time, held interactive sessions with agencies under their purview, that of culture and few others, have not secured space for that purpose, which made it and the other affected ones, to fix Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, this week for budget defence sessions.
As it is, in the Senate, so it is, in the House of Representatives with considerable numbers of its standing committees, yet to hold budget defence sessions with agencies under their purview.
When asked on possible way out of the problem, a chairman of one of the standing committees in the Senate who pleaded for anonymity, said “going by realities on ground, the two weeks set aside for the exercise is not enough.
“Plenary may have to be adjourned again this week to enable committees yet to conduct budget defence sessions do so with agencies under their purview. Two out of the eight committees I belong to in the Senate, fall into this category”.
January to December circle: Positive pointers
However despite the possible extension of time for budget defence sessions at committees’ level, the speed at which the whole process is being driven, clearly shows that the 9th National Assembly will pass the 2020 budget in December this year towards returning the country’s yearly budget circle to January/December as against May to June it has been, in recent time.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, has been saying this almost on daily basis with the belief that if that is done, Nigeria and Nigerians will be better for it. One of such expressions of him in this respect was the one made in Yobe State 36 hours ago while addressing his constituents.
He said: “Members of the National Assembly have been working assiduously, tirelessly to ensure that we pass the 2020 budget before the end of the year.
“Today, members of the National Assembly stay in the complex up to midnight, working on 2020 budget. We are determined to pass the 2020 budget before the end of the year by the Grace of God.
“This, we believe, will bring better economic environment for our people when the budget implementation starts from January instead of June”.
With or without adjourment of plenary, it is certain that the Senate and by extension, the House of Representatives, will pass the 2020 budget in December this year but what is not certain is whether they will run full plenary from today to Thursday, December 19th 2019, fixed for adjourment for Christmas break.