House Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal
The House of Representatives Thursday reviewed its position not to further consider debate on the 2013 Appropriation Act Amendment Bill as it recalled the bill and passed it through second reading after a short debate.
House Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, while acknowledging the earlier opposition some lawmakers mounted against considering the amendment bill, pleaded that it should be allowed to pass to the next stage.
In moments such as this, Tambuwal said, legislators must place national interest above vested ones.
After passing through the second reading, the House referred the bill to the Committee on Appropriation for further legislative work.
The reconsideration of the bill came two days after the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, met with the House Committee on Appropriation and Legislative Compliance and explained the rationale for the budget amendment bill.
Okonjo-Iweala on Tuesday, had told the lawmakers that the amendment was needed to ensure that the executive had the required funds to implement many ongoing projects contained in the main budget, which was signed into law last February.
President Goodluck Jonathan forwarded the amendment bill to the National Assembly on March 14.
The bill passed the first reading stage and was subsequently scheduled for second reading on June 5 when the debate and consideration of the general principles of the bill were stalled following a constitutional point of order raised by a House member.
In a motion, the attention of the House was drawn to section 81(1), (2) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution wherein it was argued that a budget amendment bill was alien to the constitution and therefore unconstitutional.
The matter was referred to the House Committees on Rules and Business, Justice and Judiciary for further examination.
After about four months of delay, the House received and adopted the report of the committee, which upheld the constitutional point of order.
The 2013 Appropriation Act Amendment Bill was thereafter dumped.
In throwing out the bill, the House argued that Section 81 (1), (2) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution did not envisage an amendment to an Appropriation Act except by way of a Supplementary Appropriation.
Barely 24 hours after the House rejected the 2013 Appropriation Act Amendment Bill for alleged conflict with the constitution, Jonathan transmitted a new version of the bill to the National Assembly.
In a June 26 letter, Jonathan said he was sending a fresh version of the bill in which he indicated the details of changes proposed across the expenditure categories.
He also sought the restoration of allocations to specific projects whose allocations were earlier slashed by the parliament.
In specific terms, the bill seeks the restoration of the allocations due to some projects in the Ministry of Works. These include the following: Abuja/Lokoja Road reduced by N4 billion; Kano-Maiduguri Road reduced by N3.5 billion; dualisation of Ibadan-llorin Section 2 reduced by N5.5 billion; rehabilitation of Jebba Bridge reduced by N1.25 billion and the rehabilitation of the Marine and Iddo bridges, whose earlier fund proposal was reduced by N1 billion.
Others include special intervention fund for emergency roads and bridges washout across the country reduced by N6.28 billion and the dualisation of Obajana Junction to Benin reduced by N4 billion.
Under the Ministry of Health, the bill also seeks to restore the allocations due to projects including: MDG/HIV/AIDS/ ARV drugs allocation reduced by Nl billion; routine immunisation vaccines reduced by N1.75 billion; malaria programme procurement and distribution of insecticides reduced by N0.8 billion; payment of pledge for Onchocerciasis recertification cut by N0.12 billion and National Trauma Centre, Abuja reduced by N0.1 billion, among others.
The executive also demanded the restoration of several sums of money proposed for key projects in the power sector. According to the bill, a total of N16.3 billion was cut from various power projects, including the 215MW Kaduna dual fired power plant, which was reduced by N2.25 billion; second Kaduna-Kano 33KV DC lines reduced by N1.5 billion; Gombe-Yola-Jalingo 330KV SC line reduced by N0.6 billion; Maiduguri 330/132KV sub-station reduced by N0.3 billion; Kaduna-Jos 330KV DC line reduced by N0.5 billion as well as the Omotosho-Epe-Ajah 330KV DC line reduced by NO.8 billion.