The two chambers of the National Assembly (NASS) yesterday stepped up legislative activities for the passage of the 2019 Appropriation Bill on Tuesday, April 2.
The actions of the Senate and the House of Representatives came exactly three months after President Muhammadu Buhari on December 19, 2018, presented the N8.83trillion 2019 budget to them for scrutiny and passage for his final assent.
At yesterday’s proceedings in the Upper and Lower Chambers of the National Assembly, the bill scaled through the second reading.
In the Red Chamber, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, mandated the Appropriation Committee to work on the budget details within the next two weeks and report back to the House on April 2 for the possible passage of the budget bill.
Saraki said that “all things being equal”, the bill could pass third reading that day.
He said: “We shall be here on April 2 to receive the report of the Appropriation Committee on this budget, consider, and possibly pass it for the third reading.
“In keeping to the date, chairmen of the various standing committees should ensure that they tidy up their budget defence sessions with heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) under their purview within the next two weeks.
“The best way out of the situation at hand as far as the passage of the 2019 budget is concerned, is for the various committees to push to the Appropriation Committee, the budget proposals of any MDA whose management refuses to appear, as originally proposed by the president,” Saraki said.
Before his directives, nine senators during the continuation of the Senate debate on the general principles of the budget, which commenced on Wednesday last week, called for caution on the part of the Executive arm of government on the country’s rising debt profile.
The budget bill as presented by President Buhari is anchored on key parameters of $60 per barrel oil price benchmark, 2.3 million barrel oil production per day and N305 exchange rate to one United States (US) dollar.
Others are 3.01 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate and 9.18 per cent inflation rate.
The critical components of the budget are recurrent expenditure N4.038trillion, capital expenditure N2.031trillion, debt servicing N2.264trillion, and N492.360billion for statutory transfers.
At the House of Representatives yesterday, the lawmakers adjourned plenary till April 2 to enable their committees to interface with MDAs in the defence of the proposals as well as their performance in 2018.
The motion for adjournment was moved by the House leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, while the deputy speaker, Hon. Yussuf Sulaimon Lasun, urged all the standing committees to conclude their budget defence before the end of March.
Lasun said that the 2019 Appropriation Bill would be ready for passage upon resumption of plenary in April.
The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had earlier informed that President Buhari declined assent to some bills passed by both chambers and forwarded to him.
The House also considered some motions of urgent national importance and deferred the consideration of the report of the Committees on Finance, Appropriations, and Aids, Loans and Debt Management in the 2018-2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Other bills considered by the House before the adjournment included “A bill for an Act for the Repeal of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission Act Cap N118 LFN 2004 and Enact the Nigeria Law Reform Commission Bill to facilitate the effective implementation of the commission’s law reform proposal and enhance its performance and related matters.”