The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has warned that consequences will follow the non- implementation of the 2020 budget passed as a law in record time late last year.
He added that the House would not hesitate to take action against government agencies that fail to implement it.
The non-implementation, notwithstanding, a fresh Bill for the 2021 Budget has begun its journey to the federal lawmakers and will arrive next week, according to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who said that President Muhammadu Buhari will present the budget estimates to a joint sitting of the National Assembly.
Lawan on Tuesday in a speech delivered to welcome lawmakers back from the Senate’s annual recess, commended the Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning for carrying out comprehensive legislative work on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, stating that consideration of its report by the upper chamber would precede presentation of the 2021 budget estimates next week by the President.
On his part, Gbajabiamila bemoaned a situation where Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government would fail to implement aspects of budget for which funds have been allocated and released.
Addressing his colleagues in a welcome speech at the resumption of plenary after the lawmakers’ annual recess, the Speaker said, “Early in the life of the 9th House of Representatives, we promised that we would return to a regular budget cycle, running from January through to December. We kept that promise in our first year and set a standard from which we must not deviate.
“However, there is an ongoing problem of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government failing to implement projects and programmes for which funds have been provided in the Budget.
“It bears restating that the Appropriation Act is not merely a policy document or a statement of intent. It is the law of the land that binds us all. Any expenditure of public funds outside of the Appropriation Act is a crime, as is a failure to implement programmes and projects for which funds have been allocated and provided.
“But more than that, it is a betrayal of the public trust that undermines faith in the government and frustrates good faith efforts at national development. The House will take action against those who fail in their responsibilities in this regard. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that.”
The Senate President announced that the upper chamber will provide a one month window for Budget defense by Ministries, Departments and Agencies morning of government.
“Like last year, the month of October, 2020 will be dedicated for this exercise. Subsequent months of November and December will be dedicated to the internal processing of the Budget by NASS.
“The various MDAs are therefore advised to ensure that they avail themselves the opportunity of the Budget defense window to appear with all the relevant and necessary information to defend their Budget Estimates,” Lawan added.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill, the Senate President said that the Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Petroleum Resources (Upstream) and Gas had preliminary engagements with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other Stakeholders in the Oil and Gas industry, to discuss the critical piece of legislation.
According to him, “the PIB has been conveyed to the Senate for consideration.”
On the Petroleum Industry Bill transmitted to the National Assembly by the president, the Speaker assured that this time around, the House would succeed in passing the Bill for it to get the president’s assent.
“This is not the first time that we have initiated the Petroleum Industry Bill or similar efforts at broad oil and gas sector reform in the National Assembly. I assure all Nigerians that we in the 9th House of Representatives fully intend to succeed this time around.
“However, I must appeal to stakeholders in the public and private sector, to the media, to the host communities and all who wish our country well to support this process. Let us reject cynicism and resist all attempts to frustrate this reform effort in service of the narrow interests of any particular group. Let us put Nigeria first so that history may judge us kindly.”
To ensure that the House passes Bills and motions that are in line with its contract with Nigerians, the Speaker announced the setting up of an ad-hoc committee headed by Rep. Henry Nwawuba to guide the implementation of its Legislative Agenda across the Committees and other institutions of the House.
Gbajabiamila reminded his colleagues that the success or failure of the House would not be the result of any single individual but a collective one, calling on them to rededicate themselves to their duties and responsibilities.
Speaking on the revised 2020 Budget, Senate President Lawan emphasized the need for both chambers to carry out oversights to ensure its proper implementation, stressing that same must be “targeted at addressing the specific challenges occasioned by COVID-19 Pandemic.”
He added that, “the Senate needs to pay particular attention to the implementation of the Federal Government Economic Sustainability Plan.
“The strategic Plan is an essential means of revamping our economy, as it provides interventions in the Mass Agricultural Programme, Infrastructure, Mass Housing Programme, Investments in Healthcare Infrastructure, amongst others.”
Speaking on the ongoing Constitution Review exercise, he said it will be expeditiously carried out by the upper chamber “to improve the quality of governance and ensure stability in our polity.”
He added that amendments to the Electoral Reform Amendment Bills will enhance free, fair, transparent and credible elections in our country.
Lamenting the security situation in parts of the country, the Senate President who underscored the need to continously seek enduring measures to arrest the situation, pledged the support of the Senate to provide the necessary legislative intervention at all times to improve the situation.
Speaker Gbajabiamila commended President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Police Bill, noting, however, that more reforms are needed in the Nigeria Police through additional legislation.
“Two weeks ago, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR signed the Police Reform Act into law. The Act is the first significant reform effort in a generation. It is the beginning and not the end of such measures. The Nigeria Police Force, as it currently operates, has too long and too often failed to meet the expectations of the Nigerian people.
“In many parts of our country, people are more afraid of encounters with the police than they are of criminals. That’s not right, and we can no longer stand for it.
“There will be, in this 9th House of Representatives, further legislation to improve police performance across the board and to introduce mechanisms for individual and collective accountability in the Nigeria Police Force. Our objective is nothing short of a total overhaul of the culture and practice of policing in Nigeria.”
Gbajabiamila also disclosed that the House has commenced work on the Armed Forces Trust Fund Bill so that in the shortest possible time, we can finalise and pass legislation that ensures once and for all that the resources we need to protect the homeland are never at the mercy of politics or changes in policy or personnel.”