Thursday, 14 April 2016

Budget: Presidency, National Assembly reach truce

The Presidency and the National Assembly have agreed to ceasefire over the controversy surrounding exclusion of some critical infrastructural projects in the N6.06 trillion 2016 Appropriation Bill.

The truce was called after both sides sat down to series of roundtable talks between Sunday and Tuesday evening, it was gathered.

A source in one of the federal agencies told Daily Sun yesterday afternoon that “Presidency officials and the National Assembly agreed to a ceasefire on any public spat on the budget.

“They have now agreed on the grey areas to correct and what to do. They also pledged to resolve any differences before President Muhammadu Buhari returns from China.”

At the National Assembly, however, Southern senators have declared war on their northern counterparts. They have also asked President Buhari to withhold his assent on the 2016 budget if the Appropriation Committees of both chambers refuse to include the Calabar – Lagos rail project in the appropriation bill.

While Senators from the South favour inclusion of all the infrastructure projects hitherto removed, their colleagues from the North are demanding a supplementary appropriation instead.

Further investigation revealed that senators from the South-west and South-south zones met at their caucus levels on Tuesday night and resolved to resist any attempt by northern lawmakers to deny their people the viable project.

While the South-south and South-east Senators met at undisclosed locations outside the National Assembly complex, the South-west lawmakers met at the residence of Senator Gbenga Ashafa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport.

Some senators who attended the caucus meetings told Daily Sun that the call for the supplementary budget was an attempt to deny the south an opportunity to enjoy a viable rail project.

Senator Adesoji Akanbi confirmed the meeting took place and said the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the South-west were solidly behind the position of Ashafa, over the issue.

He said the signing of the budget without the inclusion of the N60 billion Calabar-Lagos rail project would not be in the interest of the people of the South-West.

A senator from the South-South geopolitical zone, who pleaded not to be named, said the Calabar – Lagos rail project was as important to the southerners just as the Kano rail project is as important to the northerners.

Meanwhile, after a tense Executive Session, the House of Representatives announced it will re-examine the controversial 2016 budget.

The decision was announced by Speaker Yakubu Dogara who presided over plenary in a complete u-turn from it’s earlier position that the only option left for President Muhammadu Buhari was to send in a supplementary budget to cover omitted details.

The Speaker said the House resolved to take another look at the budget owing to the nation’s struggling economy and its negative effects on millions of people.

“We have done this in the overall national interest and to ensure that we have a workable budget that will be immediately implementable. So, this are reasons why we have taken this decision,” Dogara said.

The new position of the House is contrary to that of the Senate which stated on Tuesday that it had foreclosed discussions on the budget.

Daily Sun gathered that the executive session, which lasted for two hours, saw lawmakers from both the ruling APC and the major opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) express displeasure over the controversy surrounding the budget and the manner the House Appropriations Committee, headed by Abdulmumin Jibrin handled the confusion over the Lagos-Calabar rail project.

Chiefly, the lawmakers accused Jibrin of making provocative statements on the budget that could have pitched the House against the president.

It was equally gathered from sources at the session, that it took the Dogara a lot of tact to save Jibrin from losing his position. This is even as days before yesterday’s plenary there had been a ground swell of opinion that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee be asked to step aside.


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