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Reps To Bar Jonathan From Presenting 2012 Budget If…

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....Fix Sept 30 As Annual Budget Presentation Date

ABUJA, October 26, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives has threatened to boycott the presentation of the 2012 budget proposal usually done by President Goodluck Jonathan if the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okojo-Iweala does not honour its invitation by next Monday to furnish it with details of the 2012-2015 Medium Term Financial Framework (MTFF) recently submitted by the Executive.

Also today, the House passed for second reading a bill that will enable Representatives fix September 30th of every year as the mandatory date for which the President shall lay before the parliament appropriation bill for the next fiscal year as well as stopping the President from spending monies without appropriation for six months prior to the passage of a budget as provided for in section 81 of the 1999 Constitution.

Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. John Enoh who issued the threat at an interactive session with the Ministry of Finance, today carpeted the Executive for poor implementation the 2011 budget and also picked holes in the demand for virement.

The chairman decried the attitude of the Executive in selectively implementing budgets, reminding the Minister that the law provides that quarterly performance of the budget be forwarded to the National Assembly by the Budget Office.

The committee therefore summoned Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to appear before it next Monday to give details of the MTFF to enable the House prepare towards working on the 2012 budget, failure of which would lead to the House boycotting the President’s budget presentation.

“Except the Minister of Finance is here (House) on Monday to present the MTFF and if for any excuse she is not here, then forget about the issue of President coming to present the 2012 appropriation bill,” the committee chairman warned.

While making his presentation, the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Ngama said the 2011 budget was a disaster. He therefore appealed to the House to salvage it.

He explained that the 2011 budget was implemented to the tune of 57.3 percent, which is cash backed with 61 percent releases. He said the 2011 budget stood at N4.448 trillion with N3.536 billion as recurrent and N852 billion as deficit, which had to be borrowed. According to the Minister, the total debt stands at 4.42 percent of the GDP. He said the MDA’s were yet to access the sum of N266 billion capital votes from the CBN.

In a related development, the House passed through second reading a bill for an act to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, cap C23 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to provide a definite date for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to present an appropriation bill for the next financial year, to the National Assembly. The bill has been referred to the House constitution review committee for further legislative action. The bill is seeking to amend sections 81, 82 (2) amongst others.

Minority leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, Lagos) who sponsored the bill said the proposal was aimed at streamlining the budget process in line with the legislative agenda of the 7th Assembly. He said the practice whereby budgets were presented to the National Assembly late contributes to the poor implementation as the parliament is not given enough time to do a thorough job on the document.

“As we speak today, the budget is yet to be presented so in order to enable us do a thorough job, we need to fix a definite date. Whenever budgets are not implemented, it is the National Assembly that bears the brunt as it is often blamed for delaying the passage.

“Therefore the amendment that this bill seeks is to give a definite date when the President shall present budget to the National Assembly and that date is September 30. This will give National Assembly three clear months to do proper analysis of what we intend to Nigerians as economic blueprint,” he stated.

He cited examples of countries with a definite constitutional date for budget implementation. According to Gbajabiamilah, “In the US, it is mandatory for the President to present budget on the first Monday of February while in South Africa, it is mandatory that the Executive presents the budget by first week of February for the fiscal year that begins in April.”

Supporting the bill, Hon. Andrew Uchendu (PDP, Rivers) said it was obvious that the poor implementation of budget has been the bane of the growth of the economy. He argued that, “the timing of its presentation is the possible cause of this. We must have a definite date.”

Also speaking in favour of the bill, deputy majority leader, Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) said the bill was the antidote that will give the legislature ample time to work on budget proposals. He asked the promoters of the bill to also look into other sections of the constitution that tend to hamper scrupulous consideration of appropriation bills.

Also contributing, Hon. Aminu Suleiman (Kano) said the constitution if amended is capable of addressing the selective implementation of budgets by the Executive, adding that there have been complaints of poor implementation “now we have an opportunity to redress that anomaly.”

Others who supported the bill were, Hon Hassan Saleh (Benue), Nnena Ukeje (PDP, Abia), Sunday Adepoju (ACN, Oyo), Peace Nnaji (PDP, Enugu), Mohammed Wudil (PDP, Kano),Raphael Igbokwe (Imo), Michael Opeyemi (CAN, Ekiti), and Nkiruka Onyejiocha (PDP, Abia).