The Senate has told Nigerians to blame members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet and the ministries, departments and agencies under their portfolios for the delay in the passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly. At the plenary on Wednesday, the Senate decried that ministers and heads of Federal Government’s departments and agencies were allegedly frustrating legislative work on the budget proposals with their foreign trips and lack of cooperation with the lawmakers.
The Senate had on February 14, 2018, asked 63 agencies and parastatals under the Federal Government to submit details of their proposed 2018 budget within one week or risk sanctions. Members of the chamber had decried that while President Buhari had complied with the law by laying the 2018 Appropriation Bill along with the details of estimates before the lawmakers, agencies of the government had disregarded the law. On Wednesday, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, asked the Vice Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Sonny Ogbuoji, what was happening to the 2018 budget.
Responding, Ogbuoji said, “Since January, the Appropriations Committee’s doors have been opened to receiving reports from the sub committees but most of the sub committees have a huge challenge with the MDAs because majority of the MDAs are not coming forward to interface with them. Some of the ministers will tell you that they are going outside the country and because of that the MDAs are not fully ready. So, we don’t have the reports yet.
“We believe that it is when the MDAs come forward that our colleagues will be able to finish with their work. Some of the committees are unable to do their work. When they (committees) screen what they (MDAs) have brought, they will ask them to go back and work on the budgets and come back. But they don’t come back, and that is delaying the work on majority of the MDAs. That is why up till today, we don ’t have completed report.”Reacting, Saraki said it was the intention of the lawmakers to complete the process as soon as possible.
He asked the Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan , to communicate to the executive “so that these MDAs and these ministers and heads of agencies can be told to play their part and ensure that this exercise can be completed”. The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, however, said it was wrong for the heads of the MDAs to hold the country down”He recalled that the Senate had issued an ultimatum to 63 of the 64 FG’s agencies and parastatals who failed to provide details of their budgets to the sub committees for scrutiny.
He asked that the Senate give the MDAs one week to provide details of their budgets and defend them, failure which the chamber would adopt the budgets of the MDAs as proposed in the document Buhari laid before the National Assembly. Responding, Saraki said, “We cannot wait indefinitely, I agree with you. And we just have to put a timeline to when this should be done, he said. Also speaking, the Minority Whip, Philip Aduda , described the development as unacceptable.
He said the MDAs were holding the country to ransom. In his final ruling, Saraki said, “It appears that the general consensus here is that we give these agencies maximum end of next week. If they have not come by the end of next week, the sub committees should just complete their exercise and work with whatever they have. I rule on that and that is the position of the Senate.”