President Goodluck Jonathan
By Onwuka Nzeshi
President Goodluck Jonathan’s bid to present the 2013 Appropriation Bill next week may have to be shelved owing to the inability of the House of Representatives to conclude work on the 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Frame Work (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper this week.
The situation is further compounded by the decision of the House to suspend plenary throughout next week to enable its committees to embark on physical oversight of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government in order to verify the level of implementation of the 2012 budget.
Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, had during the plenary Thursday briefed the House on the work done on the MTEF document and the need for the relevant committees to be given more time to complete the assignment.
Jibrin suggested that the House might have to write to the president to intimate him of the situation in the House and prevail on him to shelve the presentation of the new budget, which was slated for October 4.
However, Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, said that the letter to the president might not be necessary in the circumstances since the passage of the MTEF document is a legal and constitutional prerequisite for the presentation of a new budget.
Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the MTEF is expected to be presented to the National Assembly at the end of the third quarter of the year, while the budget is presented after the National Assembly might have scrutinised and passed the MTEF document.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, explained that the decision to suspend plenary and embark on oversight duties next week was not to scuttle the planned budget presentation but was fallout of the desire of the lawmakers to be thorough on the budget process.
Mohammed said that since the MTEF is supposed to serve as a guide to the budget, the House prefers to scrutinise it thoroughly before passage and would need more time.
Meanwhile, two bills on terrorism and money laundering scaled the second reading at the plenary. The two executive bills were treated simultaneously and passed.
Leader of the House, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, who led the debate on the bills, said that they were proposed amendments to give more strength to already existing legislations.
Chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba, said it was important that the bills are passed because some of the new provisions, if not incorporated into the old law, would continue to make Nigeria look unserious before the international community in the global war against terrorism and money laundering.