Lack of Quorum Stalls House’s Budget Consideration

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•Passes bill criminalising estimated billings

Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

For the third time since the beginning of the year, the scheduled second reading of the 2019 Appropriation Bill by the House of Representatives was again postponed yesterday when the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, urged his colleagues to defer the debate to Wednesday (today) due to the lack of quorum.

This is coming as the lawmakers have passed a bill seeking to criminalise estimated billing in the country, among other things.

The lower legislative chamber passed the bill yesterday after considering the report of its committee on power sector.

The report was adopted unanimously after the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, put it to a voice vote.

The bill aims to criminalise estimated billing and make the installation of prepaid meters compulsory for all power consumers in Nigeria.

Bill estimation is a standard practice used by power providers when an actual meter reading is not available for billing purposes.

Sponsor of the bill and Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had said it was not justifiable to continuously charge consumers for power not consumed.

With fewer than 45 members in attendance yesterday, the inability to form the required quorum of 120 members forced the Deputy Speaker, to call on Gbajabiamila to move a motion for the second reading.

Already, discrepancies in some figures and wordings of the budget were also said to have been spotted by the lawmakers.

Pleading for a 24-hour 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 appeal, 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, January 23, 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.

Before Gbajabiamila’s intervention, Lasun had told the lawmakers that the budget was to be taken for second reading.

“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 does 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.”