- As APC Reps stall debate for a second time
ABUJA—Against the directive of the All Progressives Congress,APC,that its members in the National Assembly should block the progress of the 2014 Appropriation Bill, the budget yesterday scaled second reading in the Senate.
The situation was, however, different in the House of Representatives as APC lawmakers in the Green Chamber for the second time in two weeks, stalled debate on the budget, forcing the House to adjourn till next Tuesday.
It has, therefore, been committed to the Senate Committees on Finance and Appropriation, with a mandate to treat some areas of controversy and submit a report within three weeks.
This followed the conclusion of debate on the budget by all senators across party lines.
Senators at the plenary, including those in the opposition, the All Progressives Congress, APC, gave resounding consents to the passage of the budget to the next stage.
The development came as a surprise to many who were at the Senate gallery to witness the continuation of the debate, given earlier directive by the national leadership of APC that all lawmakers in its platform should block passage of the budget.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu,who presided over the plenary that saw conclusion of debate on the budget, had earlier thrown two questions to senators to approve or reject the passage of the budget from second reading stage.
Senators were to respond by either shouting “ai”,meaning approval of passage or “nay”, meaning otherwise.
But the intimidating shout of “ai” from PDP senators, supported by some others from the opposition parties saw the budget pass the second reading.
Only a noticeable few members from the opposition APC shouted “nay” to its passage.
Senator Ekweremadu, therefore, charged chairmen of the committees to liaise with their counterparts in the House of Representatives to resolve some areas of differences and submit report within the given period.
He thanked senators for what he called their useful contributions, leading to a successful debate, even as he admitted that the budget stirred some controversies, especially on issues ranging from waste, over-bloated funds to slow or poor budget implementation.
He charged the committees to do a thorough job on the budget, saying the action of the Senate was the reflection of separation of power as enshrined in the constitution.
Earlier, during contributions on the budget, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, APC, Edo, canvassed that the National Assembly should after appropriation, mandate ministries to appear every quarter to explain how they utilised funds appropriated to them.
He also called on the executive to expedite action on the construction of second Niger Bridge, stating with concern that people passing through the bridge during second week of every December went through hell.
Also speaking to Vanguard, Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties,Clever Ikisikpo, PDP, Bayelsa, said the budget was meant for all Nigerians, saying any attempt by any chamber of the National Assembly to stall its passage would cause harm to the common man.
According to him, within the period, there was disagreement over what should be the oil benchmark, Nigerians were not happy with the delay.
He added that the call by the leadership of the APC for the budget to be blocked nearly pitched the party against the generality of Nigerians because of its consequences.
He said: “Blocking the budget means a lot because they want to bring hardship upon the common man.
“In the Senate,we behave maturely and that is the reason we are able to pass the budget against all odds and till tomorrow, I don’t think we will have problems even with the clause to clause debate.”
Speaking on the increase in recurrent expenditure, Ikisikpo said Nigerians would continue to witness such increase as long as government continue to create jobs for the people.
“We should rather look at the issue of fictitious spending and forget about recurrent being 74 per cent and capital having 26 per cent because we need jobs to be created for the yearning youths.”
APC Reps stall debate
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives legislative debate on the budget was again stalled by All Progressives Congress, APC, legislators yesterday.
The House of Representatives out of fear that APC lawmakers may carry out its leadership’s directive to stall all executive bills deliberately omitted the 2014 budget from all proceedings last week.
Raising a point of order
Hardly had the leader of the House, Mulikat Adeola-Akande, introduced the Bill and asked for it to be seconded than a newly defected member of the House from PDP to APC, from Benue State, Emmanuel Jime, raised a point of order.
At that point, the chamber appeared cold, an apparent sign that something ominous was in the offing.
Granted permission to speak by the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who presided over plenary, Jime stood up and meticulously read Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, arguing that the executive arm of the government had breached the provision of the Act by hurriedly preparing the budget.
He submitted that what was submitted to the House was the abridged summary of the budget, saying the budget of most agencies of government were not represented in the budget and later prayed the House to suspend discussion on the matter.
He said: “What we have is the abridged version of this estimate. We cannot accept the Minister’s summary of the budget. We must never accept the breach of our law.
“This particular budget presentation was a breach of our law and we cannot continue to have the Executive Arm of government to continue to breach our laws. History is going to judge this parliament for standing on what is just.
“An account of the missing $10.8 billion has not been given to Nigerians and you want us to discuss the 2014 budget.“
Tambuwal sets upsix-man panel
Apparently on a rescue mission, presiding officer of the House, Tambuwal, quickly set up a six man-panel to look into questions raised by Jime after Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, John Enoh, PDP, Cross Rivers State, tried to puncture Jime’s submission on the budget.
Jime in his eight minutes submission, had argued that the 2014 budget was not accompanied by estimates as required by Section 21 sub section 1,2 and 3 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007.