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Page 4 Thursday March 24

Page 4 Thursday March 24 N/Assembly passes budget, slashes N17bn By Ismail Mudashir, Musa Abdullahi Krishi & Ibrahim Kabiru Sule The National Assembly yesterday approved…

Page 4 Thursday March 24

N/Assembly passes budget, slashes N17bn

By Ismail Mudashir, Musa Abdullahi Krishi & Ibrahim Kabiru Sule

The National Assembly yesterday approved the 2016 budget with a reduction of N17.8bn from the N6.077tr presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari had in December presented a budget of N6.07trillion but the lawmakers cut it to N6.06trillion, a reduction of N17billion.

Our correspondents say it was the first time the budget would be reduced at the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.

The reduction, according to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, occurred in the recurrent expenditure.

The assembly adopted a benchmark price of $38 per barrel of crude oil with crude oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N197 to $1.

The breakdown of the budget showed statutory transfers; N351,370,000,000, debt service N1,475,320,000,000, recurrent expenditure N2,646,389,236,196, capital expenditure N1,587,598,122,031 and fiscal deficit of N2,204, 936,925,711.16.

The lawmakers also unanimously approved that the budget runs for a course of 12 months, starting from the date it is assented to in line with Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution.

Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu said the shortfall in the personnel cost should have been addressed.

“If there were mistakes, it will not be good for us to allow it go. We should have find ways to fill it. You cannot blame the executive, ” he said.

Reacting to Ekweremadu, Senator Goje said:” The budget is full of controversies and we don’t want to add to it “.

In his remarks, the Senate President Bukola Saraki said the budget reflected efficient and equitable allocation of resources.

Meanwhile, the Senate has approved the votes and proceedings of yesterday’s sitting to enable them transmit the budget to President Buhari for assent.

But at the House of Representatives, the budget was only passed but they did not approve the votes and proceedings. The lawmakers have embarked on a three-week recess for the Easter celebration. They are to resume on April 12.

Senate President Bukola Saraki however failed to redeem his pledge to make the budget of the National Assembly public. He had on several occasions promised to make the breakdown of the National Assembly budget available for public scrutiny.

Fuel queues to stay till May-Kachikwu

By Isiaka Wakili

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday said queues at petrol stations across the nation would persist for the next two months.

Kachikwu told State House correspondents yesterday after he and the leaderships of the Nigerian Union of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) met with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister urged Nigerians to bear with the government’s measures, saying measures were being taken to build fuel reserves to sustain supply.

“Although I don’t want to put a time frame, but I will expect that over the next two months. Of course, you are aware the SAP programme begins in April. So, over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this.

“Believe me, this is giving me and my team sleepless nights and we are working on it, and we are committed to making this go away, Nigerians should please bear with us,” he said.

According to him, the government’s strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale but will be kept in the strategic reserve, saying the key problem is that there is no reserve and anytime there is a gap in supply, it goes off.

PENGASSAN president, Olabode Johnson, ýsaid Buhari expressed concern about the hardship Nigerians are going through.

NUPENG president, Igwe Achese, said the president assured that both unions would continue to be part of the ongoing restructuring in the sector.

APC: Don’t assess Buhari from 2015

By Isiaka Wakili

The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday advised Nigerians not to assess the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari from 2015 when it was inaugurated.

APC National chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said in an interview with State House correspondents late Tuesday that Nigerians should rather begin to count the present administration’s achievements from this year when the implementation of the budget would begin.

Responding to a question on what the administration had to showcase as its achievements one year into its inauguration, he said: “Don’t say one year into the present administration. Count this year because this is the year we are presenting our budget and implementation will start”.

He said the meeting discussed all the challenges that had arisen since the last general elections and decided on the way forward.

Oyegun said he was not aware that his position as APC national chairman was under any threat.

The APC scribe said he was occasionally amazed and annoyed by reports that there were calls for his removal.

Zakzaky agrees to participate in clash probe

From Andrew Agbese, Kaduna

The counsel to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating the clash between the Nigerian Army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) Yusuf Ali, yesterday told the commission that he was able to see the IMN leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky who agreed to participate in the inquiry.

The commission however again adjourned sitting yesterday to allow the movement submit its memorandum to commence proper public hearing.

The IMN’s legal team led by Festus Okoye, had on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction with the commission and announced discontinuation of appearances before it.

But counsel to the commission, Yusuf Ali,

said the counsels to the IMN were however not present during the meeting with their leader.

Ali the lead counsel to the IMN, Femi Falana was also not aware of the withdrawal of the legal team of the IMN from the commission.

The Nigeria Army through it counsel had opposed the application for adjournment, saying much time had been wasted and the commission could continue with the hearing while the IMN could be allowed to participate any time it was ready with its memo.

Chairman of the commission, Justice Muhammadu Garba Lawal in his ruling, noted that since the commission had adjourned its sittings all this while in the bid to allow the IMN access its leader to get a proper briefing, it would not be proper to continue hearing without the movement.

He said since the IMN leader had finally been seen and had indicated interest in participating in the inquiry, it was only right to allow the movement time to prepare and submit its memo and adjourned sitting to April 6.

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