Indications emerged Monday that President Muhammadu Buhari may not assent to Appropriation bill passed by the National Assembly unless the schedule of detail of the budget was duly passed on the floor of both chamber of the National Assembly.
The tradition of passing the budget in the National Assembly is for lawmakers to pass the summary without the details of the budget on the floor while the details were handled by the Appropriation Committees that would forward it separately to the President for assent.
The disclosure was made by Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang at a colloquium on Budget Matters in Abuja during the unveiling of OrderPaper.ng.
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Enang, in his goodwill message assured that with the controversies that trailed the 2016 budget, the President Buhari is determined to ensure that the 2017 budget does not suffer the same faith.
He said the Presidency is set to put in measure that will ensure that the process is no longer exposed to manipulation.
According to him, the reform has more to do with the National Assembly, saying, “We will reform the budget process when it is completely passed on the floor if the National Assembly.
“The bill will be signed by the President when the bill and its schedule is brought and passed on the floor along with the details of the bill.
“All these must be reflected on vote’s ad proceedings of the two Chambers and certified for the President to assent”.
Enang, a former Senator said the tradition seems to have delegated the power to pass the Appropriation Bill to the Appropriation Committee which should not be the norm.
The emphasis, according to him is that the summary and the details of the budget must be passed on the floor.
However, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremade took exception to the comment on the deligation of power to pass the budget to the Appropriation Committees.
He said the National Assembly does not relinquish the passage of the schedule of the budget to the Appropriation Committees.
“What the Appropriation Committees does is to sign all the page of the document before transmission to the President,” he said.
He however preferred way forward on how to make the budget process more responsive, saying time of submission of the bill is a major culprit.
He asked the Presidency to address the time the budget estimate is submitted to the National Assembly first because it has always been an impediment to thorough examination of the document by the lawmakers.
He suggested a reduction of period the President can spend to three months instead of the current six month before presidential assent.
According to him, once the Executive is aware that it has just three months to spend before the budget is passed, submission of the budget for the next year would be expedited.
He also advised that the budget process should be subjected to public hearing at the National Assembly to enable Nigerians have a say in its preparation.
“Most of the challenges we always have on the budget is that it was not always presented early”.
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