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COVID- 19: 2020 Budget: NASS Circumvents Procedure as Committees deliberate on amended version

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Amended copies of the N10.596trillion 2020 budget have been received by leadership of both Chambers, Senator Barau

By Henry Umoru

Committees deliberate
Senate

ABUJA- FOLLOWING the outbreak of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that is at the moment, ravaging the world, the National Assembly on Thursday  circumvented their procedures of official acknowledgment of communications from the Presidency in their Hallow Chambers before any consideration or deliberation at the committee level.

Consequently, the Senate and the House of Representatives, yesterday said that amended copies of the N10.596trillion 2020 budget have been received by the leadership of both Chambers.

To fast track the process, Committees of the two Chambers on Appropriations, Finance, and National Planning, yesterday had an interface with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and Director General Ben Akabueze on the already received proposals on amended 2020 budget.

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Speaking with Journalists yesterday in Abuja after the consultation session with the Minister and DG, Budget Office, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Jibrin Barau, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano North, disclosed that while proposals on the drastically reduced 2020 budget were received on Tuesday evening by the leadership of the House of Representatives, the Senate received similar communication cum request from President Muhamnadu Buhari on Wednesday this week.

Barau said: ” Now that the bill to amend the 2020 budget has been submitted to the National Assembly, we decided to strengthen the collaboration of consistent engagement with the executive arm of government so that by the time we go into the full activity of processing the bill, we would not have any major disagreement.

“We want to have a smooth process that would be devoid of acrimony or disagreement between the National Assembly and the executive. The Minister was here in pursuant to the earlier trend which had been established since the beginning of the 9th Senate.

“The impact of the COVID – 19 on the economy is that the revenue that was supposed to flow into the coffers of government are not coming in, necessitating amendmendment of the earlier passed budget to be in tune with the current realities.

” We don’t have enough revenues coming in and there are a series of problems coming up, which can best be addressed by a drastic review of the earlier passed N10.596trillion budget.”

Also speaking at the meeting, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Olamilekan Adeola , APC Lagos West who noted that the interface was just an earlier scheduled consultation between the committees and the Minister as directed by the National Assembly leadership last week, said, “the budget is already in the National Assembly but the legislative process has to take its course before any major pronouncement could be made.

“The consultation is a work in progress but until the document is laid in the National Assembly which we hoped in no distance future would be unfolded and we would have the full grasp of what is contained in the document before we can make any major pronouncement concerning the what the MTEF / FSP and the revised 2020 Appropriation Act.”

Prior to the interactive session, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed said that the session was in line with the consultative process between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government on COVID-19 vis – a – vis required amendment of the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework / Fiscal Strategy Paper and the earlier passed and signed N10.596trillion 2020 budget.

The Minister said, “We are here today as another consultative process just to take input from the leadership of the National Assembly regarding the work that we are doing in the process of amending the MTEF 2020-2022, and the 2020 budget.

“The outcome of this meeting will form an input into the work that we are doing, which will subsequently, be confirmed by the National Assembly”.

Other Committees chairmen in attendance apart from Jibrin and Adeola were Senators Bassey Akpan Petroleum Upstream; Olubunmi Adetunmbi, National Planning; Clifford Ordia, Local and Foreign Debts) and Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon Wole Oke as well as Hon Cook Olododo representing Ilorin South and East Federal Constituency of Kwara State.

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