Thursday, 28 April 2016

Budget impasse- 15 Man committee to harmonize grey areas before Monday.

Buhari presents N6.08trn 2016 budget to NASS
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuf Lasun, is to lead the 10-man National Assembly Committee to interface with another 5-man committee from the executive to harmonise all the grey areas pointed out by the Presidency on the 2016 budget. 

The 15-man committee which has five members of the House of Representatives and five members from the senate as well as the five members from the executive is expected to finish its assignment on or before next Monday for the presidential assent expected to take place between Tuesday and Wednesday of the week. 

The House of Representatives had embarked on a closed-door session yesterday to discuss the outcome of the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara at the presidential villa on Tuesday evening. 

Though, Dogara on the resumption of plenary was silent on what transpired at the closed-door meeting and decisions reached, Vanguard reliably gathered that the House decided to set-up its five man committee to interface with the members from the executive to harmonise the budget. 

It was further gathered that Chairman of Appropriations Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who had been in the storm over his alleged role in the controversy surrounding the padding and insertion of projects that were not initially contained in what the president presented is a member of the committee Also included is the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Ibrahim Babangida.

According to Vanguard, an anonymous source said, it was agreed that all the insertions in the budget that were not contained in the main budget document including constituency projects will be completely removed from the budget. He said that all the grey areas as pointed out by the president will be boxed and removed by the committee, while the Lagos-Calabar railway project that had generated controversy will be accommodated with the alleged excess funds discovered in the Ministry of Transport budget which were converted to constituency projects. 

The lawmaker said that the committee is expected to round off the assignment on Friday this week or latest Monday so as to ensure that the budget is signed either Tuesday or Wednesday next week. The source explained that the National Assembly decided to accommodate the Lagos/Calabar railway project which was not in the budget for the sake of peace, adding that the rail project was discussed at the committee stage when it was brought. According to him, “we decided to let what came from the president be for the interest of the nation.

What we have agreed is to allow corrections made by the Appropriations Committee and to remove insertions.” He further explained that if the budget was returned to the National Assembly, it will cause constitutional crisis and will be started afresh which will take much time and the National Assembly will go out of time. Besides, he said, ” There were things that were inserted by the Committee Chairmen that were not originally in the budget like road projects, they will all be removed. So we agreed to remove anything that was not originally provided for.” 

Another lawmaker had also alleged that the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin after receiving bashings from his colleagues over his role on the controversy surrounding the budget, had threatened to spill beans. It was gathered that the Appropriations Committee had during the budget defence wrote to all the members to submit their constituency projects which the complied with and submitted accordingly. 

Why leadership of NASS, presidency settle for truce 
Meanwhile, there are insinuations that the leadership of the National Assembly under the control of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the presidency decided to go for the amicable resolution of the budget impasse over the alleged mammoth crowed that witnessed the declaration of intent by the former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido to contest for presidency under the platform of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in 2019. 

The lawmaker who is a member of APC from North East also claimed that the popularity of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC was declining in the North over the perceived hardship in the polity and alleged witch hunt of perceived political opponents. He said, “I am telling you that we were intimidated by the calibre of people that attended the PDP programme in Jigawa where the party’s National Chairman, Ali Modi Sheriff was in attendance with some other party bigwigs. “We have decided o settle any problem that the budget may have caused because some of these issues are making our party unpopular even in the North. You can’t imagine what is going on now,” he said. 

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