The 2016 budget is not on the agenda of the House of Representatives as lawmakers reconvene this week in Abuja from their Christmas and New Year break, our reporter learnt on Monday.
The lawmakers will resume work on Tuesday (today), but contrary to expectations, the budget will not be on the table this week.
Rather, other bills (excluding the Appropriation Bill) will take priority today, Wednesday and Thursday.
Findings show that the House would start looking at the N6.08tn budget from next week.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, confirmed to The PUNCH in Abuja that debates on the budget would begin next week.
Namdas said, “The House is not treating the budget this week. It is going to be next week.
“The reason is that copies of the document will first be circulated to members this week. They need a couple of days to study the details of the provisions in the budget.
“If you recall, the House had already adjourned by the time Mr. President presented the budget estimates at a special joint session of the two chambers last month.
“Members still do not have copies. So, the decision is that, this week, the copies will be circulated and from next week, debates may start.”
He said the immediate priority of the House would be speeding up the passage of some of the 130 bills introduced in one day to the House late last year.
He added, “We want to use this week to start working quickly on the bills.
“We are looking at passing up to 20 bills daily, if possible, and pass at least 60 before next week.
“Because of this, we are also paying less attention to motions this week.”
The budget has a deficit of about N2tn. Its crude oil benchmark of $38 per barrel is already generating controversy amid dipping global oil prices.
Prices hovered around $33 over the weekend, a far cry from the budgeted figure.
The Senate, through its spokesman, Saabi Abdullahi, had hinted last week that the National Assembly was unlikely to retain the proposed $38.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday last week in Abuja, he said, “We are going to be as realistic as possible by reviewing it in line with realities on the ground as regards the proposed parameters like the oil price benchmark, with a barrel of crude oil in the international market today far lower than the projected benchmark figure of $38 per barrel.”
The House of Representatives in particular had long raised doubts over the workability of the $38 per barrel oil benchmark before President Muhammadu Buhari presented the budget estimates to the National Assembly just days to Christmas.
The House joint Committee on Finance, Appropriations, Aids / Loans / Debt Management had while considering the 2016-2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, doubted the sustainability of $38.