Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has said the lawmakers would stick to the deadline of October 29 given to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to conclude their budget defences for 2020.
Gbajabiamila said this while addressing journalists yesterday.
The House, on October 10, suspended its plenary sessions to focus on the timetable it set up for the 2020 Appropriation Bill aimed at ensuring Nigeria’s budget cycle was returned to the January-December calendar year.
According to the timetable, the house gave a deadline of October 30 till November 5 for submission of budget reports by MDAs.
“We have had a great outing and are trying to meet the deadline without sacrificing the thoroughness of the budget defence.
“We can do both at the same time. We can get back to the January-December cycle and at the same time have a fact thorough, comprehensive budget defence process.
“We are trying to see if we can beat before the deadline; we are sticking to that deadline.”
Responding to questions on former house members who are now ministers asked to just “take a bow” and some of the meetings holding behind closed doors, the speaker expressed confidence in the competence of the committee chairmen and the process of the budget defence.
“I have absolute confidence in the committee chairmen; they were carefully selected based on their background, experience, knowledge and passion.
“If you see things like you have expressed, there will be reasons and genuine verifiable reason as well.
“Budget process is an open thing; there is transparency, accountability but if there are one or two occasions there were closed door or private meetings, there might be implications.
“It could be security implications or things that are necessary for the cohesion of the process itself and for the country.
“I might not be able to preempt because I have not spoken with the chairmen but it is information I will take and talk to the chairmen and find out why the meeting was in closed door,” Gbajabiamila said.
Earlier, at a public hearing on the 2020 budget, Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly’s commitment was to return the country’s budget to the January to December cycle for proper implementation
He spoke at a two-day joint public hearing on the 2020 organised by the joint Senate and House Committee on Appropriation.
“Many people have asked me what’s the big deal about January to December budget cycle? Why are we so pressed on returning the financial year to January to December?
“It’s simple, the constitution says so. A lot of people are not aware of it. It’s stipulated in the constitution that the financial year shall be January to December or any other time as prescribed by the National Assembly.
“This allows for proper timing, proper implementation as opposed to what has obtained for some time when budget is passed going to the second quarter of the year.
“This has its own psychological impact. It has a way of depressing even the economy itself,” he said.
He added that the National Assembly sought to address such anomalies with the implementation of the budget and “carry Nigerians along”.
The speaker said the public hearing was organised to get input from Nigerians and the relevant stakeholders and reflect federal character in projects allocation.
“What we’re here to do is to basically present to the stakeholders the N10.3 trillion budget as presented by the President.
“So, what we seek to do here is to get the buy-in of all stakeholders from the Nigerian public, because I always believe that nobody is a fountain of knowledge.
“Even though we’re given the full authority by the constitution to appropriate, we cannot do it alone.
“In the House, we believe in what we call joint task: Nation Building is a Joint Task,” he said.