The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Rep. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, says contrary to insinuations, National Assembly is not a “rubber stamp’’ or extension of the Executive.
He said that the legislature “does not take instructions or guidance from the Executive on any issue, including consideration of annual budget’’.
Orker-Jev told Newsmen in Abuja on Friday that the delay in the passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill was because the national assembly insisted on proper scrutiny of the proposal.
He said that Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) had refused to go before relevant committees of both chambers of the assembly to defend what they put in the budget.
According to him, the national assembly is ready to ply its role but the fate of the 2018 Budget is in the hands of the MDAs.
The lawmaker said that some MDAs had defended their proposals while others had not, adding that the executive was aware that it had not played its role to facilitate approval of the budget.
“Only last week, it was reported that the President directed the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) to direct all the MDAs which had failed to defend their budgets to come and do so.
“A budget that has not been defended by some agencies cannot be passed like that; we are not rubber stamps,” he said.
The lawmaker also said that the executive arm of government took its time to ensure that the budget was prepared before sending it the national assembly.
“Don’t forget, the executive arm of government takes all the time they have to prepare the budget and bring it to the national assembly, and then the pressure comes on the assembly.
“If people get to understand the work of the national assembly, they will be more appreciative.
“A lot of effort is put into scrutinizing everything that is put forward. You see some items keep coming up in the budget every year,’’ he said.
Orker-Jev added that if the budget was not defended, “the responsibility that the national assembly is allocated in section 4 of the 1999 Constitution will not be discharged.
“The parliament passed the National Assembly Budget Research Office (NABRO) Bill.
“The idea behind that law was that among other things, the legislators will interface with the executive so that by the time the budget comes to the National Assembly, there will be understanding on both sides of the bargain.
“Therefore, no much time will be taken at arriving at a conclusion.
“The presidency for some reasons returned that NABRO bill so we are back to square one, where we will have to wait for the executive to take all the time to prepare the budget and present it.
“I think when the structure of this whole budget thing is put in a better shape we will begin to talk of passing it in time.”
He said that the national assembly was aware of Nigerian’s expectations and therefore, urged the people to be patient as the budget would be passed soon.
According to him, the national assembly is aware of the expectations of the public. I think that in due course, the budget will be passed.
“But, the nation is not helpless; the law states that if the budget is not passed you can go for six months to spend based on the estimates of the last budget.
”So, it is not as if the nation will grind to a halt if the budget is not passed.
“It is only when the six months elapses and the budget is not in place that the nation will be in trouble because by then everything would have come to a halt. But that is not the case right now.
“Ultimately, I think we will get to a situation where a budget will start from January and end in December, but we have not had that since the inception of Democracy.
“We always have it over lapping into the next year.
“Nothing is lost anyway, apart from the ideal situation of the budget running from January to December.
“For instance, if the budget is passed in June, its implementation will run till another budget is put in place; so nothing is lost.”