Senate assures speedy passage of budget, PIB, others

By The Citizen

The Senate President, David Mark has assured that the National Assembly will expedite the passage of the 2015 budget proposal as well as the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB.

Mark made the pledge in a welcome speech at the resumption of plenary by the Senate yesterday.

He said: 'I would like to assure Nigerians that the National Assembly will work hard to ensure that the 2015 Appropriation Bill is passed in good time.

'As we resume this last lap of the 7th Senate, we shall endeavour to pass the lingering Petroleum Industry Bill. We are conscious of the concerns of various stakeholders (Nigerians and foreigners). It has taken long but we should do all we can to pass it.'

Mark noted the declining price of crude oil and stated that Nigeria's over reliance on mono product is unhealthy and unsustainable, stressing that this reality makes it more pertinent that the Federal and state governments must work assiduously to develop other sources of revenue outside the oil and gas sector.

Mark lamented that the North East zone of the country is still under siege, with its attendant loss of several innocent and productive lives, urging all Nigerians to support the armed forces and other security operatives to stop the carnage.

'Bomb blasts are non partisan in their destructive nature. Insecurity plagues all of us and must be tackled holistically,' Mark said.

On the coming general election, the Senate President counseled his colleagues to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections irrespective of their party affiliations.

'For us to hold elective offices, there must first be a nation,' he admonished.

According to Mark, despite the much vaunted fear, apprehension and anxiety that the country may not survive the elections, Nigerians have the strength of character, the political will, the perseverance and maturity to rise above all the challenges that lie ahead.

He appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to carry out its responsibilities without hindrance and to ensure that Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs are allowed to vote.

In a related development, the House of Representatives, which also resumed from its Christmas break yesterday deferred the consideration of the debate on the 2015 budget till today.

There was also a strong indication that the House may reduce the budget benchmark for crude from $65 proposed by the Federal Government to $40 as a result of the fall in the price of the commodity in the international market.

The lawmakers maintained that there is no point in increasing the benchmark, when the situation is not conducive.

It was believed that if the benchmark is raised and the price of crude oil continues to fall, government may not have enough money to fund the budget especially, with the coming elections.

Some of the lawmakers revealed to our correspondent that they would not waste too much energy debating the budget before passing it to the Presidency for assent.

They also revealed that the only aspect of the budget that could be subjected to scrutiny is the benchmark.

The lawmakers may not be willing to embark on elaborate debate because of the need to campaign for votes in their various constituencies.

The House Leader, Mulikat Adeola-Akande said that debate on the budget would begin today.

The N4.3trn 2015 budget estimate was presented to the National Assembly in December by the Coordinating Minister of Economy and Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.