By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
For the third time this year, the proposed second reading of the 2019 budget by members of the House of Representatives was Tuesday postponed when the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, in whose name the document stands, urged his colleagues to shelf the debate till Wednesday.
Though the House had less than 45 members in attendance, not being able to form the required quorum of 120 members, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuf, had called Gbajabiamila to move a motion for the second reading.
Pleading for 24 hours postponement, Gbajabiamila said: “Mr Speaker, may I crave your indulgence and that of the House to step this bill down the second reading of this bill till tomorrow. I have received several appeals from members because of the importance of the budget, so that they can have 24 hours for them to go through it, to know all the details and aspects of the bill. I crave your indulgence to allow this to be stepped down till tomorrow.”
Reacting to the plea, Lasun said: “Since the Leader, as the leader of the business of government; it is true that the Leader is the leader of government business here, and I am aware too that members started getting copies of the Appropriation Bill 2019 just Thursday last week.
“Of course we are expected to be considerate. And so, we are going to give a rare opportunity of acceding to the request of stepping down the commencement of the debate till tomorrow, Wednesday, 23rd January, 2019. The commencement of the debate is stepped down accordingly.”
He however implored those interested in the budget debate to register with the secretariat. Already, some interested lawmakers have shown readiness to contribute to the debate.
In fact, before Gbajabiamila’s intervention, Lasun had told the lawmakers that the budget was to be taken for second reading when he said: “As the Speaker said, we are going to commence debate on 2019 budget.”
He said the earlier delay in taking the budget was due to some discrepancies in some figures and wording of the budget, which he said have been corrected.
According to Lasun, “Let me add this word as I intend to. One of the reasons why debate on the 2019 budget was not commenced last week was the discovery of a slight error in reporting the figure of the budget as against the wording.
“For example, in stating statutory transfer, the figure N432,360,342,965, is correct but the wording do not correspond with the figure. So, that has been accordingly corrected.
“Stating the capital expenditure, both the figure and narration are wrong. In stating the capital expenditure N2,031,754,458,903 was misrepresented instead of N2,031,704,458,092.
“However, the addition of these figures, including the recurrent expenditure remained the same and there was no mistake to that effect and so, the total budget still stands at N8,826,636,578,915.”