With barely 10 more weeks for the 8th Senate to wind up, the N8.83trillion 2019 budget proposals presented to it for approval by President Muhammadu Buhari last December is yet to be considered. Taiye Odewale reports.
Three months of no budget consideration
By this time of next week, Tuesday, 19th March, 2019, it will be exactly three solid months since the N8.83trillion 2019 budget proposal was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, neither the senate nor the House of Representatives can be said to have carried out any serious legislative consideration on it yet. This lack of tangible action has been in spite of initial pledge by both chambers, to take critical assessment of the proposals with a view to cutting down on the usual irritant delay in the passage of budget as has been the case since 1999.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday, 19th December, 2018, presented the budget estimates for expeditious consideration by the federal lawmakers.
The president while making the presentation precisely on the said day appealed to the federal lawmakers at both chambers i. e, the Senate and the House of Representatives, to give the Appropriation Bill expeditious consideration and passage in returning the country back to January to December yearly budgetary circle for clear cut measurement and assessment of its implementation on quarterly basis.
“It is my hope that despite our current preoccupation with political activities, we can all commit to an early passage of this budget in the larger interest of our people and the national economy , particularly in returning the yearly budget circle to January to December for clear cut assessment and evaluation of its implementation on quarterly basis”, he said.
Similar appeal was also made by the president to the federal lawmakers on Tuesday, 7th November, 2017, when he made presentation of N8.6trillion 2018 budget proposals to them which was later jerked up to N9.12trillion seven months after, precisely in May last year when it was eventually passed.
But three solid months down the line now, neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives, have passed the budget for second reading which will give room for defence sessions between the various standing committees at both chambers and heads of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Senate the culprit
The most worrisome of the delay the budget estimates in terms of consideration and possible passage, is in the Senate where it has not been considered in anyway.
It will be recalled that debate on general principles of the N8.83trillion took place on the floor of the House of Representatives on 23rd and 24th of January this year before the federal lawmakers adjourned for the just concluded general elections.
But such attempt was never made in the Senate at all throughout the six times sittings had taken place this year.
Even as it resumes today, suspension of plenary that will take place on account of death of Hon Temitope Olatoye killed in Ibadan by unknown gunmen last Saturday. The suspension, which is in keeping with tradition, will further add to the delay on the budget consideration.
This is as the suspension of plenary to be done by Senate today over the murdered lawmaker will also be done in the House of Representatives where the deceased lawmaker belonged to, before his untimely death on Saturday.
The legislative practice of plenary suspension over death of a serving lawmaker from either the Senate or the House of Representatives has since the 7th National Assembly been adopted as a tradition to respect departed soul of any affected lawmaker.
No debate on minimum wage
Consequently, as a result of this in the Senate, aside 2019 budget consideration that will suffer further delay, consideration and passage of the N30,000 minimum wage, will also be affected .
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had at the last sitting of the senate on Tuesday, February 26th 2019, instructed the chairman of the Ad-hoc committee, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC) assigned to work on the bill, submit it today unfailingly for consideration and passage.
Saraki had while giving the instruction, said since the House of Representatives passed the bill for third reading on 29th January, 2019 before embarking on the first recess for the presidential and National Assembly elections, the senate should also expedite action on it.
Expectedly while the minimum wage issue will be taken care of and passed by the Senate this week, that of the budget estimates, being a more sensitive and very important bill, will require time to pass through the required process of consideration and passage.
Budget passage a mirage!
But going by realities on ground, both chambers will have to expedite action on the bill to get it passed and transmitted to the President for assent latest by 28th of April in giving room for 30 days duration for that purpose since the current tenure of the president ends on 28th May 2019.
Speaking on the legislative challenge at hand, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation , Senator Danjuma Goje in a telephone conversation , said ,” whatever it will take, the budget proposals was presented to the 8th Assembly by the President and it is the 8th Assembly that will consider it and pass it for assent by him before May 29, 2019″.
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