By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – REPRESENTATIVES of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and relevant Committees of the House of Representatives yesterday met at the National Assembly in Abuja on how to tackle the current recession and the implementation of the 2017 budget.
The Committees of the House that had interface with the IMF representatives and the Ministry of Finance include the House Committees on Appropriations, Finance, Debt, Loans and Aids.
Meanwhile the House has adjourned plenary for three weeks to concentrate on the budget process so as to pass it on good time.
Speaking at the meeting, the leader of the IMF delegation, Mr. Amine Mati who is a Senior Resident Representative, African Development, said the team was at the National Assembly to collate efforts of federal government in tackling recession in the country and the plan of the lawmakers to support government’s efforts.
He said the mission was done once a year for all the member countries to look at the challenges and asses the economic situation and that the compilation would be useful to IMF and the Nigerian government.
“I am pleased to inform you that the IMF normally carries out assessment such as this, at least once in a year on countries going through one form of economic challenge or the other.
“To compile our reports, we usually meet with governments, members of parliaments, civil society groups and other bodies to get their views.
“The report we intend to do on the Nigerian situation will probably be in March this year.
“Therefore to assist us in this task, we urge you the members of the House of Representatives, especially those of you in the relevant committees to provide us with your own assessment of the economic development in Nigeria.
“We will also want to know government priorities in addressing recession in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, “We discuss with the government what are their policy initiatives. We actually discuss with all stakeholders, which is why its important to come and talk to you, the Senate, civic societies, private entities, banks, financial and non financial etcetera, to try to get a sense of what’s happening in the economy.
“And try to assess the situation, discuss the outlook, and then have some policy recommendations for discussion
“This is an assessment that is done every year, we’re trying to finish this mission next week and then hopefully present the report to our board on March 24th and then the report will become public
“What we’ll like to hear from you Honourable members is your take on the economic situation, on how you view the policy priorities of the government. What you think is needed for the country.
“What are you views, how do you see the legislative agenda trying to help this economy going forward. There a lot going on, there a lot also un terms of legislation. I know there is the PIB, I know there is also some laws on fiscal management, procurement etcetera. What do you think is the priority of the house in trying to power this economy out of recession.”
Also speaking, Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Babangida Ibrahim said the government was prioritizing diversification of the economy as a means of revamping the ailing economy, job creation and youth empowerment.
Chairman, House committee on Appropriation, Bala Dawaki remarked that the government has in this year’s budgetary estimates, earmarked N52 billion for the promotion of export processing zone and that it would help boost local and foreign exports.
He also told the delegation that as part of revamping the economy, the government has further budgeted N500 billion this year for youth empowerment, in the areas of agriculture, health and education.
For Chairman, House Committee on Loans, Debts and Aids, Adeyinka Ajayi who chaired the meeting, the government was committed to data collection for the purpose of national planning.
He listed other commitments of the government to include infrastructure development, security, power and regulation of external borrowings.
Briefing journalists after plenary, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, said the House suspended plenary to deliberate on the 2017 Appropriation Act and will resume plenary on 21st February.
He explained that the decision of the House to suspend plenary was to provide the lawmakers the opportunity to meet the deadline for the passage of the budget.
He said, `”We are not going on recess, we are only suspending plenary to enable us meet the time frame set for the passage of the 2017 budget.
“This time around the process is going to involve public hearing whereby the media and the civil society organisations will see what we are doing.
“It is going to be a collective work and the process will be transparent.”
Namdas further said that the period will provide a platform for the lawmakers to effectively carry out their oversight functions on the activities of ministries, departments and agencies