Senate Finally Gets Harmonized 2017 Budget


Six months after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly, the Senate, on Tuesday, received a harmonized final report of the Appropriation Bill.
President Buhari, who is currently away in the United Kingdom (UK) on a medical vacation, laid the budget on the 14th of December, 2016. This is the longest time, since 1999, that the National Assembly will be passing a budget almost six months after it was presented.
The 2016 budget was laid on the 22nd of December, 2015. The first draft of the budget which was eventually rejected by President Buhari, was passed in March, 2016.
After the budget padding imbroglio, the 2016 budget was eventually passed in April and was signed into law by President Buhari on the 6th of May, 2016.
If passed, this will also be the first time that both chambers of the National Assembly will be passing a harmonized budget since 1999, without recourse to a conference committee to resolve grey areas.
According to Senate rules, the budget is expected to be considered and possibly passed on Thursday by both chambers of the National Assembly. As at the time of filing in this report, it could not be immediately ascertained the exact figure which will be passed.
There were apprehensions last week, following the failure of the National Assembly to pass the 2017 Appropriation Bill.
The apprehensions were hinged on the fact that the 2016 budget ought to have expired on the 5th of May, 2017.
In his intervention however, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, explained that the 2016 budget will run till end of June, within which the 2017 budget will be passed.
Ekweremadu had explained: “Let me also emphasize for the benefit of the public that we were ready to receive this report today (yesterday). 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 what we will like to see the House and the Senate laying just the same documents so that once we pass, we will now send the documents to the President for assent.
“I think this is important that the point be made and the public know that the harmonization 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 by next week and we will send it to the President for assent.
“Let me also inform the public as well that the tenure of the 2016 budget ends tomorrow (today) the 5th because it was signed into law on the 6th of May 2016, but under the constitution, the Federal Government is entitled to continue to spend money based on the 2016 estimates up to the 30th of June, 2017.
“But we will not allow us to get into the reliance on the 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.”
Meanwhile, Senator John Enoh, who represents Cross River Central, on Tuesday, formally announced his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Senator Enoh was in the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP, before he was elected in 2015 to the Senate, on the same platform.
With his defection, the number of APC Senators now stands at 67, while PDP has 41. One seat from Anambra Central, is still vacant. It was occupied by Senator Uche Ekwunife, who was sacked in 2015 by the Court of Appeal

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