2019 Budget: N’Assembly Ready to Receive Buhari Today

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Saraki and Dogara at the National Assembly complex

Lawmakers describe workers’ strike inconsequential

Deji Elumoye and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The two chambers of the National Assembly yesterday resolved to receive President Muhammadu Buhari in a joint session for presentation of the 2019 N8.7 trillion budget proposals in line with request made to that effect by the president last week.

President Buhari had last Thursday in separate letters addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives , Hon Yakubu Dogara , requested the federal lawmakers to grant him audience today for 2019 budget presentation.

The motion for the approval of the presidential request was moved at the Senate by the Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan ( Yobe North) and seconded by the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Emmanuel Paulker (Bayelsa Central) .

The motion got overwhelming approval of the entire senators at the session when put to voice votes by Saraki.

At the House of Representatives, only 41 lawmakers out of the 360 members yesterday adopted a motion to receive President Buhari for the presentation of the 2019 budget before a joint session of the National Assembly today The plenary, presided over by Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuf, opted to formalise President Buhari’s proposed budget presentation with a motion moved by the Leader of the House of Representatives, which was unanimously adopted by lawmakers, irrespective of party affiliation.

The Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, moved the motion to admit President Buhari and his entourage into the National Assembly in consonance with Order 19, Rule 8, 1 – 2 of the Standing Order of the House.
According to him, “In accordance to our rules, I rise to move a motion that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be admitted into the chamber tomorrow (today) to present to us and the country, the 2019 budget.”

Explaining what has transpired in the National Assembly in the last 24 hours and why the sitting was scanty, Gbajabiamila said: “Members of PASAN are on strike. It is right to put it on record that the right to strike is constitutional. They have a right to strike. We will fight for them, but it is important to let it be stated that their strike has no quarrel or anything to do with the legislative arm of government of either of the Houses. I think their issue is with the management and it is important that we set the record straight because we hear stories here and there that this has to do with the presiding officers and the leadership of the House and the Senate.

“While there is a right to strike and which cannot be taken away from them and which we must respect, there is no right; in fact, it is illegal to stop members of the National Assembly from coming to work.”

Also acknowledging worker’s right to demand for their needs, Lasun said: “We are not unmindful of the fact that workers are entitled to be paid whatever they are requesting for as long as it is provided for but we must also state the fact that the legislative arm of government defines democracy. So, no individual or association will want to be involved in shutting down that arm of government that defines democracy.”
He assured the people that the leadership of the House intervened in the matter last week and that the issue has been referred to a committee which he said has discharged their duty accordingly.

In the same vein, Hon. Ossai Nichola Ossai (Delta, PDP), who had earlier pointed accusing fingers at the executive for allegedly breaching the appropriation Act, pleaded with workers to persevere?
“We are not unmindful of the fact that every worker is entitled to his wage. To that extent, we want to appeal to the workers to see reason and also urge those on the other side in the management to also make sure that those salaries and allowances are paid,” Ossai said.

Also speaking on the demands of the workers, Hon. Tajudden Abass (Kaduna, APC), said the money in question in not yet in the disposal of the National Assembly and that workers can only be paid when it is paid.
“They (workers) need to know, even the National Assembly; the Senators and members of the House of Representatives, nobody has been able to get anything from the 2018 budget.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing strike action of members of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria ( PASAN) over non-payment of 28 per cent increment on their salaries since 2010 , has been described as inconsequential to today’s budget presentation to be made by President Buhari.
In separate interviews with reporters yesterday, Gbajabiamila and Hon Yusuf Tajudeen from Kaduna State said PASAN strike cannot in anyway disrupt plenary at both chambers let alone, joint session for 2019 budget presentation.