Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal
The House of Representatives Tuesday resumed plenary after its annual vacation, insisting that its demand for the full implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act was neither a fluke nor an attempt to witch hunt anybody.
The clarification came same day the Presidency formally sent the 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper to the National Assembly.
The framework which had earlier been unveiled by the Coodinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is a prelude to the presentation of the 2013 Appropriation Bill.
The Presidency also declared that the implementation of the 2012 Budget had reached a “highly impressive” level.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, who spoke to journalists after the day’s plenary, disclosed that while the lawmakers were on vacation, the Presidency signed a performance contract with the ministers in order to ensure high performance in terms of budget implementation.
She said that there has been a drastic improvement in the performance of all the MDAs which, according to her, would translate to improved service delivery.
She disclosed that government was already fine-tuning the 2013 Appropriation Bill to ensure its presentation to the National Assembly this month as earlier promised.
Emodi lauded the lawmaker for their cooperation but urged them to continue to work with the executive arm of government particularly on critical issues such as the budget, constitution amendment and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
In an opening remark to welcome members back to the parliament, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, said the mandates given to parliamentarians by the electorate can only be sustained when projects and programmes in the budget were implemented in such a way that the needs of the citizenry are met.
He lamented that the national budget has become a yearly ritual observed more in breach than execution.
“When this House insists on budget implementation by the Executive it is never meant to witch hunt anybody. Budget implementation is the only way Nigerians can feel the direct impact of government in their daily lives.
“Nigerians need to be reminded that when we insist that budgets be implemented as passed by the National Assembly we are doing no more and no less than what is our duty. Although we live in a society where suspicion and slander clouds every important discourse, we shall never because of that neglect our responsibilities.
“It is time to remind us all that Appropriation Act is a law passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President. It is not a document of convenience to be executed as officials deem necessary.
“It is a solemn legal commitment of Government to intervene in various areas of need of our people. It is the instrument of infrastructural and economic development. The budget allocates resources and guides governmental activities in a given year,”he said.
Tambuwal who described budget implementation as a challenge to the legislature pledged that the lower chamber of the National Assembly would strive to fulfil the terms of its social contract with the people with integrity and honour.
He described the performance contract recently initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan to monitor the performance of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as a vindication of the position and resolution on budget implementation.
He disclosed that all Committees of the House have been directed to collate information on the 2012 Budget in terms of level of funding and implementation by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“In the course of the week, a day will be set aside to deliberate in plenary session, the level of budget implementation as collated by the various committees.
“After the deliberation, the House will suspend plenary for one week but the House work will continue in committees. Within this period, various committees will be required to go on physical inspection of projects and authenticate all information provided by the various MDA’s on the level of 2012 budget implementation. The report of the various committees of the House after the oversight visits will form the basis of further action by the House,” Tambuwal said.
The Speaker acknowledged the plight of some constituencies that had been ravaged by flood and other natural disasters and reminded the lawmakers that there was plenty of work to do to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens.
Apparently reminding the lawmakers of the cardinal programmes as outlined in the Legislative Agenda, Tambuwal said the House will pursue the Constitution review process with greater vigour.
According to him, the House will ensure that the constitution review will follow an all inclusive and consultative process where every Federal Constituency in Nigeria would have a say on the content and aspects to be amended.
“Our proposal is that every Federal Constituency should constitute a panel of credible persons that would organise a public hearing and engage an extensive public consultation. This will involve Representatives of each of the following stakeholders in each Constituency namely: The Honourable member representing the Constituency; Civil Society Organisations; Nigerian Bar Association; Labour unions; Academic Staff Union of Universities( ASUU); youth organisations; women organisations; religious groups; mass media and other stakeholders as the Committee on Constitution Review may think fit. These stakeholders will appoint their own representatives in the various constituencies. “Furthermore, a template and details of the issues to be discussed would be worked out by the Committee on Constitution Review, following from memoranda already received from the public,” he said.
Tambuwal also pledged that the House would continue to expedite action on the Petroleum Industry Bill, Electoral Act Amendment Bills, Police and Security Agencies Acts as well as bills to boost agriculture and deal with high unemployment situation in Nigeria.
“In our Legislative Agenda, we made a commitment to run a technology driven parliament. We believe strongly that in the 21st Century, electronic voting system should be the dominant method of voting in this chamber. This makes voting more transparent and accountable. It makes every member accountable and responsible for votes and positions on issues.
“The votes and proceedings of the House, the Order paper, the Hansard must all be accessible to members and the general public electronically. This will deepen access to the legislature and improve our democratic credentials and practice.
“We believe that this will engender greater transparency, openness and accountability. We intend to put our legislative procedure at par with international best practices, to advance our members’ technological savvy and further strengthen our cooperation with other national parliaments,” he said.