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By Ini Ekott
March 25, 2010 03:17AM
The House of Representatives, yesterday, suspended a consideration of the federal budget after Speaker Dimeji Bankole noticed what he called “subheads that will be of interest to members” in the document which has neared final phases of legislative approval.

Yesterday's postponement made it the third time the presentation of the committee reports on the more than N4 trillion budget would be rescheduled.

Mr. Bankole said lawmakers would need to “consider first” some areas of the spending plan which will be in their interest.

“I guess you all know what I'm talking about,” Mr. Bankole announced to his cheering colleagues, who, according to him, will have to meet in a closed door session to resolve the crucial areas of the budget.

Meeting behind closed doors
Legislative aides conversant with the process suggested the legislators can only meet under such secrecy, at this stage of the budget processing, to discuss matters related to their welfare, namely, allocations under separate subheads, to the House for 2010.

“If it is the normal 'carried, carried', of course that is usually done in the open, so what is the need for the executive session” an aide who has worked with a three-term member since 1999, asked rhetorically. He was referring to the procedural call asked members by the presiding officer during the clause to clause consideration of the budget.

After committee deliberations of spending proposals, both chambers of the National Assembly have scaled down work on the document, directly limiting government expenditure which is pegged by the law, as long as the year's budget is not passed.

While the passage is expected, federal financial rules permit releases from the Ministry of Finance to other units of government, not in excess of 30% of the approved allocation to such unit in the previous year.

No reason for delay
The Senate's consideration of the reports, have been limited by its consideration of the constitution amendments which has focused on electoral reforms. After final voting on the reviews today, the Senate plans to commence the screening of the Ministerial nominees sent in by the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan.

The House, however, has repeatedly deferred the budget consideration in spite of not having such constitutional screening responsibility, and having yet to receive its version of the Constitution amendment reports.

While the budget reports are delayed, the House discusses relatively lighter issues. The Speaker, Mr. Bankole said on Wednesday they will be laid on a later date, after certain final inputs.