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Thursday, July 11, 2024

Budget Abracadabra: Peter Obi, lawmakers across party lines decry executing four budgets concurrently

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Federal lawmakers, across party lines, have expressed opposition to executing three or four budgets (Appropriation laws) concurrently  during a heated debate in the House of Representatives over President Bola Tinubu’s request to extend the implementation period of the N21.83 trillion capital component of the 2023 budget.

Not wanting a repeat of the heated session in the lower house of the National Assembly, senators went into a closed session, away from the prying eyesof the public, thoughthere was said to be grumbles, to pass the bill last week, making it a fait accompli there.

This Saturday, Labour Party Presidential Candidate in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, picked a hole with the implementation of four national budgets running concurrently and describes it as a recipe for chaos and frivolity.

Writing on his X handle, Obi said it is a flagrant disregard for fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability.

“All available evidence has confirmed that the  Nigerian government is implementing four national budgets concurrently. This is in blatant disregard for fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability.

“It is also a recipe for chaos, confusion, and catastrophe.

“This intentionally  action will lead to frivolous items in the approved budgets competing with essential projects for limited resources, further exacerbating the suffering of the Nigerian people.

“It indicates that the leaders are out of touch with reality and lack the competence to manage our nation’s finances effectively.

“Unfortunately, this deliberate act of fiscal recklessness is being undertaken by elected representatives of the people, thereby betraying one of the cardinal pillars of democracy. Leaders are elected to responsibly manage public resources in an organized
way.

“I respectfully appeal and in fact, demand that this situation be reversed immediately in preference for a more responsible and transparent approach to budgeting.

“We must prioritise the needs of the Nigerian people, not the selfish interests of a few.

“This is a call to action for all leaders to desist from actions that will further drive the country into economic chaos.

“Neither the National Assembly nor the executive has any excuse to promote or condone such unconscionable behaviour.

“We seek and insist on a nation governed by leaders who are frugal and responsible in their handling of public resources.
“This is the only way we can build a great nation.

Also debated on the floor of the House last Thursday was the extension of the N2.17trillion 2023 supplementary budget to Dec. 2024.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Tajudeen Abbas had during the plenary read a letter by the President after which the executive bills requesting the extension were introduced.

The Leader of the House, Rep. Julius Ihonvbere, moved for the second reading of the bills.

However, Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), the House Minority Leader, raised concern on the request for extension of the two budgets.

Chinda said that it would be morally wrong for the country to be running three to four budgets concurrently.

He said that the 2024 budget is currently being implemented while the executive is still requesting for the extension of the 2023 main and supplementary budgets at the same time.

According to him, rather than extension, important projects in the supplementary budget should be moved to the 2024 budget.

Rep. Alhassan Doguwa (APC-Kano) in his contribution supported the position of the minority leader, saying that it would be morally wrong to have three budgets running at the same time.

The Speaker, however, appealed to members to support the extension of the budget implementation.

He said most of the items on the supplementary budget were security related issues.

In spite of his plea, majority of the lawmakers appeared not comfortable with the request for extension of the budgets as they kept on shouting “No, no.”

Following the disagreement, Abbas asked that the House should go into an executive session for members to iron out issues before resuming consideration of the bills.

In the end, they gave a nod to the President’s request, making it the first time in Nigeria’s democratic experience in the last 25 years this would happening.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, has defended the extension of the lifespan of the 2023 Appropriation Act and the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Act, to 31st December, 2024.

The resolution came after the request of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu through an Executive Bill.
It was gathered that the lifespan of the 2023 Appropriation Act and the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Act were expected to terminate on Sunday 30th June 2024.

Addressing journalists after the Bill was passed clause by clause consideration by Senate Committee on Supply, Senator Adaramodu said the motive of the Senate was to stop the menace of abandoned projects.

He said:”We want to stop the spate of abandoned projects. We want to ensure that what was captured in 2023 Budget were executed to the letter. It was because of that the Senate decided to tinker with the Appropriation Law so that money spent on projects not completed would not go down the drain . We want to make sure that all the provisions in the budget were adhered to. That’s why the exercise of today (Thursday) became pertinent. That’s what we did today . ”

The Senate spokesman also dismissed speculation over move by the Parliament to approve the procurement of two presidential aircrafts under the guise of 2024 Supplementary Budget.

Senator Adaramodu disclosed that there was no 2024 Supplementary Budget before the Senate.
“We are awaiting the supplementary budget. There was nothing on aircraft before us. President Tinubu mentioned supplementary budget to us when we had a joint session of the National Assembly. We don’t even know the content of that supplementary budget yet. The issue of aircraft has never come to us. If it comes to us, we will debate it in its own merit. The 10th Senate is about the interest of Nigerians.”

Earlier the Senate had extended the life cycle of the 2.18tn and the 2.17tn 2023 supplementary budget from June 30 to December 31, 2024.

The Red Chamber on Thursday suspended all its rules and gave an expeditious passge to the budget in less than 20 minutes.

Earlier before the passage the lawmakers had been in a closed-door session for two hours.

In December 2023, both Chambers of the National Assembly extended the implementation period for the capital component of the budget from December 31, 2023, to March 31, 2024, along with the N2.17 trillion 2023 supplementary budget passed in November 2023.

Earlier in March, following requests made by President Bola Tinubu, both the Senate and the House of Representatives extended the implementation period for the budgetary appropriations from March 31, 2024, to June 30, 2024.

With just four days remaining until the June 30, 2024, deadline for the affected 2023 budgetary appropriations, the two chambers cut short their recess to hold separate sessions for Thursday (today) to consider further extensions ahead of their previously set resumption date of July 2, 2024.

● Additional reports by NAN, National Update

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