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CBN Act Amendment Bill Scales Second Reading

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, April 25, (THEWILL) - The Senate on Wednesday pushed the CBN Act Amendment Bill beyond the crucial second reading, in a move that represents significant progress towards actualising its ambition of enforcing the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The bill seeks to mandate the apex bank to submit its annual budget to the Assembly for approval. The Senators, in a unanimous voice vote, passed the bill for third reading.

The National Assembly and the CBN have been locked in a running battle over the appropriateness or otherwise of CBN’s refusal to submit its budget to the Assembly.

In the lead debate, sponsor of the bill, Sen Ita Enang argued that its purpose is to delete the provisions of Sections 6(3) (a) of the CBN Act and ensure that the legislature, which budgets for the nation, is abreast of the volume of money available to and released for economic activities by all persons, institutions and agencies.

“It is not only funds appropriated by the National Assembly that encourage or discourage inflation in the country but monies released by the CBN and other agencies such as listed in the Fiscal Responsibility Act and this is the essence of the Act,” he argued.

He explained that while the CBN had relied on Section 6 (3) (a) of the CBN Act of 2007, which states that the board (CBN) shall be responsible for the consideration and approval of the annual budget, the Senate maintains that the Fiscal Responsibility Act assented to by President Yar’adua on July 30, 2007 provided that agencies, including the CBN, should cause their budget to be submitted to the National Assembly.

“The claim by the CBN that under Section 6 (3) of the CBN Act of 2007, the National Assembly is deemed to have donated its authorisation powers under Section 80 (3) of the constitution, as it relates to the CBN, to the board of the CBN, is an affront on the law,” Enang added.

Ruling on the bill, deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who was the presiding officer reiterated the importance of clearing the ambiguity, adding that it is appropriate that all government agencies comply with Section 81 by way of submitting their annual budgets to the Assembly.

“The bill will not affect the independence of the apex bank,” he assured. “It is just a way to maintain independence and accountability because independence without accountability is equal to tyranny.”

Senators, Mohammed Markarifi, Wilson Sekibo, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Victor Lar, James Manager and Abdul Ningi faulted the CBN for refusing to obey the provision of the constitution, which they deemed as superseding all other laws. They said that it is wrong to appropriate money without authorisation of the National Assembly.

However, Senator Isa Galaudu, the lone opponent of the bill, expressed argued that it will only serve to impinge on the operational independence of the CBN.

The bill was forwarded to the Committee on Finance and Judiciary with a mandate to return a report to the Senate in another two weeks.