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Budget faces fresh delay

The 2016 budget bill faces fresh delay because  President Muhammadu Buhari  cannot sign it without details from the National Assembly, Presidency sources said yesterday. The…

The 2016 budget bill faces fresh delay because  President Muhammadu Buhari  cannot sign it without details from the National Assembly, Presidency sources said yesterday.
The Senate and the House of Representatives  passed the budget on Wednesday and shortly afterward announced that it had been sent to the President for his assent.
But a highly placed government official yesterday said the legislators forwarded only the budget highlights to the president.
The official who craved anonymity told State House reporter that the development confirmed the speculation that the National Assembly either did not complete work on the budget or was playing politics with an issue that concerned  the whole country.
He said Buhari was anxious to sign the budget so that implementation could start immediately in order to ease the tension in the economy and polity.
He said with this development the president was afraid that when the details were sent they might not be implementable.
The official said the Assembly might have “passed” the budget to pass the buck to the executive and escape the wrath of the public “which was gradually suspecting it of sabotage”.
He said ministers too were not willing to plead with the President to sign the transmitted document because they also did not know what was contained in the details.
He stated: “The President has just received the transmission of the Appropriation Bill (2016 budget) from the National Assembly and is very anxious to sign it into law, but the National Assembly only sent in the highlights without the details of the budget.
“As result, the president has been handicapped in signing the bill because he does not know what is contained in the details and what adjustments the National Assembly must have made to the proposal sent to them.
“Although he is anxious to sign the document so that implementation of the provisions could start immediately and ease the tension in the economy and polity, he is afraid he may later discover, when the details are sent, that what is contained therein is not implementable.
“He (President Buhari) wishes the National Assembly could send in the details speedily so that it could be considered for assent.
“Ministers are also eager that the budget be signed so they could start implementing their programmes, but they are unable to push the President to sign what has been transmitted because they also do not know what is contained in the details.
“They are particularly worried that the year is gradually ageing and the provision of the law in respect of spending the previous year’s budget is not helping matters because of the low capital provision for 2015.
“Because of the low provision made last year for capital expenditure, spending 50 percent of that provision for the first half of this year will make no impact on provision of infrastructure.
“The Budget Office cannot also work on the Budget for implementation because it is the details, and not the highlights, that they convert into implementable templates for the respective ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
“This development confirms speculations that the National Assembly either did not complete work on the budget or are playing politics with the documents which affects the life of both the country and its citizens.
“The National Assembly may just have passed the bill to pass the buck to the executive and escape the wrath of the public which was gradually suspecting it of sabotage”.
Speaking with Daily Trust  yesterday two legislators confirmed that the assembly only sent the executive summary to the President without the breakdown on Thursday.
Our correspondent reports that the extension of the capital component of the 2015 budget would elapse  tomorrow. President Buhari is also billed to travel to the United States of America today for a nuclear summit.
A senator told our correspondent that Buhari was right in withholding assent. “Yes, the President is right that he would not assent the document without the breakdown because when he brought the document to us, he came with the summary and the breakdown,“ he said.
He said the delay in the submission of the breakdown to the Presidency could cause confusion in the polity.
“If not for the delay, by now we should have been talking of implementation of the budget. I can no longer understand what is happening again because we passed the budget on Wednesday and up till now they are yet to send the full document.
“Both both chambers worked together and as such the cleaning up of the document should not take this long. I don’t know why they want to drag us through another controversy,” he said.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Senator Danjuma Goje was not available for comment as he neither answered  his calls nor replied  the text message sent to him by our correspondent.
Speaking to Daily Trust on telephone yesterday, House spokesman Rep Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) said they would soon forward the budget details to the President.
“The details of the budget must be in tandem with the reports of all the committees, which is what we’re currently doing before sending it to the president. What is important is that we retained all the provisions of the envelopes of the various MDAs,” he said.
Our Correspondents report that the lawmakers had postponed the passage of the budget thrice before passing it last Wednesday.
 

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