House Moves To Resolve Budget Controversy… Areas Of Concerns To Be Reconsidered
The House of Representatives is to re-examine the controversial 2016 budget.
The lawmakers have mandated Speaker Yakubu Dogara to meet with President Mohammadu Buhari with a view of identifying areas of concerns in the passed budget.
The House also sworn in three members from Rivers State who won the National Assembly rerun.
The House promised to accomodate all grey areas following a re-examination of the document with the executive.
The House’s position is, however, contrary to the position of the Senate, which on Tuesday foreclosed a revisit of the document.
The decision was announced by Dogara after a two-hour executive session where various opinions were said to have been raised.
Dogara said the decision of the House was necessitated by the prevailing economic situation facing the country.
He said: “In view of the prevailing economic situation and in in the interest of our people, we have resolved to reexamine the budget with a view of ironing out any differences with the executive.
“This is for the overall interest of the country in order to have a workable budget that is implementable.”
House Spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa), later at a press briefing on what transpired at the executive session, insisted that the controversial Lagos-Calabar rail project was not included in either the initial budget proposal presented by President Buhari nor in the reviewed version.
According to him, the House has not seen the document as flawed since the Presidency has not officially reacted to the passed bill.
As a result, he said, the House is not in a position to decide that something is wrong with it.
Namdas, however, noted that the decision to reexamine the document was due to current economc situation as well as media and public reactions on the status of the passed bill.
He said: “As a House, at the executive session, we mandated the Speaker to liaise with President Muhammadu Buhari to know what the problem is and to identify the areas of concern.
“This is because the President has not made any official statement concerning the document but we have resolved to accomodate whatever areas of concern that might be raised in the interest of the nation.
“Up till now, there has been no communication from the Presidency to the National Assembly about the Lagos-Calabar rail project as Mr President has not made any comment on it.”
The spokesman said issues of amendment or supplementary budget were not discussed at the closed door session, “Whatever the case, we have done our job by transmitting it to the President and we cannot do anything since the President is still acting in accordance with constitution,” he said, adding:
“To us, nothing has happened to the budget and we cannot do anything before then because nothing is before us to suggest that something is wrong with the passed budget document, everything is in the realm of speculation”.
When asked to confirm if Appropriation Committee Chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin was barred henceforth from making official comments on the budget, Namdas said such never came up.
“Every member of the House as well as Chairmen of Committees have rights to make media comments on issues, but it is only the House spokesman that have the powers to speak on behalf of the House,” he said.
The Nation gathered that the role played by some lawmakers in the budget row was hotly debated at the session.
A lawmaker, who pleaded not to be named, said members were concerned that they were left in the dark about the preparation of the budget.
Without mentioning the lawmaker(s) involved, the source said that the agitation of his colleagues was due to lack of information and, were disappointed about the controversies over the Lagos-Calabar rail project among other anomalies identified in the document.
In his reaction, the Minority Leader of the House, Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) said the executive should stop resorting to blame game on issues it can resolve through dialogue, instead of confrontation.
He said: “Nobody can take away the power of Appropriation from the National Assembly.
“If anyone thinks he can bring a budget to the legislature and it would be returned to him the same way, he must be dreaming”.
Also, three members from Rivers state were sworn in yesterday at plenary.
The members had won the National Assembly re- run elections in their various constituencies..
The lawmakers that took the oath of of office and allegiance were Betty Apiafi (PDP) representing Ahoada East/Abua/Odual East constituency; Chinda Kingsley Ogundu (PDP) Obio/Akpor constituency and Nsiegbe Blessing Ibiba (PDP) representing Port- Harcourt 11 constituency.