Saraki, Dogara’s Absence Stalls 2018 Budget Signing


Obinna Chima

The signing of the 2018 Appropriation Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, which was expected to hold Wednesday could not because of the absence of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who were out of the country, a presidency source has told THISDAY.

THISDAY had reported on Monday that the money bill would be signedWednesday.

But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that the bill would be signed next week.

However, a THISDAY source said the presidential assent would be on Tuesday, while the budget analysis has now been fixed for Wednesday.

Although there is no legal requirement for the leadership of the federal legislature to be present at the signing ceremony, the convention is that both leaders of the two arms of the National Assembly as well as Ministers of Finance and Budget and National Planning, as well as some other cabinet members witness the signing of the Appropriation Bill into law.

“The signing of the budget was postponed because the Senate President and Speaker are not in the country. We expect them to be back before next week Monday and by Tuesday the budget would be signed and by next week Wednesday we would have the budget analysis,” the source explained.

Saying the THISDAY report was not necessarily wrong, the source explained that the decision to stop the presidential assent ceremony was taken late Monday night because both Saraki and Dogara that were expected back in the country could not make it.

While the Senate president is in Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj, the Speaker is in London for an executive leadership course at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The president had last November laid the 2018 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the National Assembly. However, it was not until May 16 (six months after), that the federal legislature passed the bill. Afterward, it took them another 10 days to transmit it to the president. But the president also dithered in appending his signature.

The THISDAY source had explained the delay in the presidential assent, saying the president had a window to go through the fiscal document before signing, noting that the president has not yet exhausted the window.

However, he disclosed that barring any last-minute change of plan, he was confident the president would assent to the budget Wednesday at the State House.

If the president had assented to the 2018 Appropriation Bill Tuesday (June 12, 2018), it would have amounted to a repeat of the 2017 Budget, which was also signed by the then acting President (now Vice President), Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on June 12, 2017 after it was passed by the National Assembly on May 5, 2017.

Buhari had laid a proposal for N8.6 trillion but the federal legislators had increased it to N9.1 trillion, an additional N508 billion, they explained was applied to critical sectors of the economy, including the reduction of the budget deficit, security, health and power, works and housing.

The increment had triggered fears that the executive might decline assent, replaying the altercation over the 2017 budget.