By Joshua Egbodo
Members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives, yesterday, faulted the procedure for the presentation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), as debate on the document commenced.
According to the members, it was required by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, that the MTEF/FSP must be presented to the parliament for consideration and approval, three clear months before the presentation of the budget, which was not the case, as Speaker Yakubu Dogara only read the President’s letter conveying the document on October 17, and the budget 2018 was presented on November 7, 2018.
Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, had barely finished moving a motion for debate on the general principle of the document when Hon. Betty Apiafi, a member of the PDP from Rivers state, raised a point of order, citing provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the possible breach portended by the rush to pass the document, as well as the non-realistic nature of some of the assumptions in the document and cautioned that the House might later be accused of padding the budget when alterations are made.
But Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yussuff, who presided over the sitting, appealed that there was no need to defer the debate, explaining that “nothing stops the House from amending the assumptions, if we do not agree with them”.
Gbajabiamila also made efforts at saving the day by citing section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as emended), which provided that any law, or part of which is inconsistent with the constitution, shall to the extent of such inconsistency be null and void, against the constitutional powers of the President to cause for the budget to be laid “at any time” before each house of the National Assembly.
He appealed to his colleagues to “in the interest of the nation and for the good of the country,” allow the debate to proceed.
With the appeal, the Deputy Speaker thanked members of the opposition saying “we are grateful to you for allowing the debate to continue,” before yielding floor to Deputy Majority Whip, Pally Iriase, Kayode Oladele and Ahmad Pategi, all of the ruling APC, who cautioned the relevant committees to which the document was subsequently referred, to do a thorough job.