By Emmanuel Aziken & Franklin Alli
ABUJA â€” The Senate and the House of Representatives will separately receive the Federal Governmentâ€™s 2010 budget of N4 trillion today, dousing the tension that had existed between the two houses over the venue for the budget presentation.
In a departure from convention, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba Aji will perform the duty that had until now been undertaken by the President. Details of the budget are to be unveiled after the formal presentation, it was learnt yesterday.
Presidential sources who confirmed the development said that Abba Aji would first the budget before the Senate before proceeding to perform the same ritual in the House of Representatives.
The development was welcomed by Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party who hailed it as a positive development for the rule of law.
A meeting of the PDP caucus scheduled for last night was yet to commence as at press time though senior Senate officials told Vanguard that Senators would be briefed on the development.
â€œIt is a victory for everybody and for the constitution,â€™â€™ one senior Senate official told Vanguard yesterday in apparent reference to Senate demand for the strict application of the constitutional provision requiring the President to lay the budget separately before each chamber of the National Assembly.
Section 81(1) of the constitution spells thus:
81(1) The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year.
(2) The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates (other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation by this Constitution) shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein.â€
Meantime, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, has called on the Presidency and the National Assembly to ensure that the 2010 budget is ready for implementation by January.
Its President, Dr. Chukwuemeka Okolo, frowned at a situation where the annual budget is delayed for implementation months after it is presented, stressing: â€œThis leaves much to be desired and does not augur well for the growth and development of the economy.
â€œAs has been the case over the years since the beginning of the current democratic dispensation, the 2009 budget was not signed into law until the tail end of the first quarter of March 2009. This is definitely unacceptable to the private sector operators whose business plans and projects are directly dependent on the policies and provisions in the Federal Governmentâ€™s annual budgets.
â€œIt is a known fact that the passage into law of the Appropriation Bill and assent of the budget every year is of serious concern to the business community, as it drives business activities and investment in the economy.
Therefore, yearly delay associated with the release of the federal budget often dislocates business plans and the direction of the economy. Government should therefore evolve a new budget process strategy that would govern the budgetary process and define the roles of the key players in the preparation, presentation and approval of annual national budgets.
With a clear time frame, the budget should be ready for implementation by January of each ensuing year,â€ he said.