Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, the Senate, yesterday disclosed that it would pass the N8.612 trillion 2018 Appropriation Bill on December 19, just as it directed its Committee on Appropriation to ensure that the report on the budget is ready on the date.
Consequently, the apex legislative chamber adjourned plenary session to Tuesday, December 19, to enable other standing committees have enough time to engage the various ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) on budget defence having passed it for second reading.
The Senate took these decisions while it was considering the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which it eventually passed for second reading.
Speaking on the passage of the second reading of the budget, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said: “We know that the timetable is very tight. We will be suspending plenary for us to be able to start the defense of this budget. Committee chairmen and members should please ensure that we keep to this timetable.”
Saraki warned ministers and heads of agencies and parastatals of government to cooperate with the National Assembly during the budget defence to enable the apex parliament pass the bill on target.
“Let me respond with a general note of warning to all heads of MDAs to ensure that they strictly respect the letters of invitation and the timetable. This is not time for excuses for ministers or heads of parastatals to be travelling and not be able to attend their budget defense.
“We do not have the time. This is a very short timeframe, therefore, I expect all MDAs to be able to respect our invitation and be there on time so that the committees can wrap up and be able to present their reports by the time we come back on Tuesday, December 19.”
He also disclosed that a public hearing on the budget estimates during defence session might take place on Monday, next week.
“There will be a public hearing on the budget. We are looking at Monday, the 11th of December; however, in the next few days, an announcement will be made,” he said.
Also, the Senate has barred the executive arm of government from spending money from any amount arising from crude sales above the benchmark approved by the National Assembly in the 2018 budget.
The chamber cautioned that, for the executive to spend funds from sales above the benchmark, the National Assembly, which has the sole constitutional power of approval, must be contacted for appropriation of such funds.
To ensure compliance by the executive during implementation of the budget, the Senate resolved to insert a new clause into the 2018 Appropriation Act, barring the executive from spending any money realised from the excess benchmark sales.
The resolution followed a motion moved by the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’ Allah (APC, Kebbi South).