…Orders Govt Agencies to Defend 2018 Budgets 

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By Omololu Ogunmade and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
 

President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday night in Abuja, ordered heads of parastatals who have failed to defend their 2018 budgets to immediately respond to calls by the National Assembly and do so.

The president gave the order during a meeting with principal officers of the National Assembly led by Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives’ Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

The meeting which lasted for only 26 minutes at the First Lady Wing of the Presidential Villa, had earlier been cancelled three times before it eventually held last night.

Speaking with journalists after the meeting, Saraki said the meeting dwelt on delay in passage of 2018 budget, security issues and other matters.

He said the leadership of National Assembly freely expressed its opinion on such issues in the meeting. 

Saraki expressed hope that following discussions at the meeting, agencies of government which had not been forthcoming would come up to defend their budgets.

“We are hoping that with the speed up now, they will come and defend their budget,” Saraki said.

In his submission, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said the president briefed members of the National Assembly on updates on security, economy and job creation.

According to him, election was fast approaching and the country was faced with numerous security challenges which required money to tackle.

Against this background, he said the president ordered parastatals to proceed to National Assembly to defend their budgets so that the Appropriation Bill could be passed.

“The president gave them update on security, economy, job creation, processes in the National Assembly especially with regards to the budget and need to conclude on it and Mr. President has given instruction that all ministers and parastatals should ensure that they appear before the National Assembly to defend their submissions so that we can get this out of the way.

“You know this is a very dynamic year and there are preparations for elections and we are having quite a lot of security challenges and so, if we don’t appropriate, where will the money come from?”

The meeting appeared to have been boycotted by PDP lawmakers as Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda was the only principal officer from the opposition party who attended the meeting while all from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were present.

In attendance besides Saraki and Dogara, were Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, Senate Whip, Sola Adeyeye, House Chief Whip, Al-Hassan Dogowa, Deputy House Whip, Pally Iriase, among others.

Among those who stayed away were Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Godswill Akpabio, Senate Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, Senate Deputy Minority Leader and Biodun Olujimi, Deputy Minority Whip.

Others in the presidency who were in meeting the besides the president and SGF were Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, his colleague, Garba Shehu and Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang.