…Stands down capital expenditure

…Budget to be laid Tuesday

By Emeka Anaeto, Business Editor & Henry Umoru

ABUJA—THE Senate yesterday said the 2017 Appropriation Bill would be laid for deliberation and passage next  Tuesday.

This came against the position of the Ministry of Finance earlier in the first quarter of the year that the Federal Government would run on 2016 budget until May 5, 2017, being today.

However, against the apprehension during the week of a possible fiscal crises and government business shut down in the event that the  May 5, 2017  target was missed, a source in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning told Vanguard that though the 2016 Budget expires today, the government was allowed by law to run its recurrent expenditure as provided in the 2017 Appropriation Bill up to the tune of 25 per cent before the Bill becomes law.

But according to the Senate, the government can actually rely on the constitutional provision to continue spending tillJune 30, 2017. However, the government is not allowed to spend on the capital budget portion until the Bill becomes law.

President Muhammadu Buhari (M) presents the 2017 National Budget to a joint session of the National Assembly at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja on Wednesday.

Explaining the delay in passing the Appropriation Bill, the Upper Chamber said it was putting final touches to the 2017 document to enable it come up with a very clean budget that would be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent next week.

Presentation of report of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Finance on 2017 budget was earlier slated in the Order Paper yesterday but did not happen.

Explaining the situation, leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, stated: “I have been informed that by the grace of God, definitely budget 2017 will be laid on Tuesday. Having said this, Mr President,  distinguished colleagues, I will move that we stand down this report to  Tuesday, the next legislative day and I so move.”

Senate Deputy Minority leader, Senator    Emmanuel Bwacha, seconded the motion.

In his remarks, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, said the shift of date for laying the document became imperative to allow for a holistic harmonization of the document with the House of Representatives.

According to him, once that is done, the 2017 Appropriation Bill would be forwarded to the President for assent.

Ekweremadu said: “Let me also emphasize for the benefit of the public that we are minded to receive this report today. It was only this morning that it was necessary for us to be sure that we are on the same page with the House of Representatives to avoid any possible conferencing.

”So, we’ll like to see the House and the Senate laying just the same documents so that once we pass the bill, we’ll now send the document to the President for assent.

“I think it is important that the point be made and the public know that the harmonisation which is going on should be concluded over the weekend to enable us receive the budget report by  Tuesday and, by the grace of God, have it passed next week and send to the President for assent.

“Let me also inform the public as well that the tenure of the 2016 budget ends  tomorrow  (today), May 5th  because it was passed on the 5th of May 2016, but under the constitution, the federal government is entitled to continue to spend money based on the 2016 estimates up to  June 30, 2017.

“But we will not allow us to get into reliance on constitutional provision. Hopefully, by the grace of God, we will have this budget next week, we will pass it so that implementation will start in earnest. So, I just want to appeal for the understanding of the people of Nigeria.”

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on December 14, 2016, presented a budget of N7.289 to the joint session of the National Assembly.

The N7.289 trillion budget has N419billion as statutory transfers, N1.6 trillion for debt service, N177.4billion for sinking fund, N2.9trillion for recurrent (Non-debt) expenditure and N2.058 trillion for capital expenditure.

Also recall that the Senate had on January 24, 2017, began debate on the general principles of the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

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