Sunday, February 17, 2019

Don't boycott 2019 Budget presentation by Buhari, Ndume begs lawmakers

Don't boycott 2019 Budget presentation by Buhari, Ndume begs lawmakers

Ali Ndume, Senator representing APC, Borno South has pleaded with his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives not to boycott the 2019 Budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Ndume said on Saturday in Abuja that if the comment credited to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, on the Budget was true, it was unnecessary.

Some members of the House of Representatives had on Thursday threatened to boycott the Budget presentation over reports that the Minister blamed the National Assembly for delaying the process.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on December 6, in an Executive Communique, announced that he would present the 2019 Budget to the National Assembly on December 12.

However, as at December 13, when the Senate adjourned Plenary for the week, no letter to that effect was read at Plenary, creating uncertainty around the presentation before the National Assembly adjourns for the year.

Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, urged his colleagues to reconsider their position in the interest of the nation.

“I understand the reactions of the honourable members, is as a result of the unnecessary comment credited to the Minister of Budget as to who is responsible for the delay.

“My take on this is that two wrongs do not make a right and I want to appeal to my colleagues in the House of Representatives to have a rethink because the President is not responsible for what the Minister was alleged to have said.

“I feel national interest should be placed above any individual or group interest.

“As for the Senate, the letter from Mr President as to when to present the Budget has not been read,” he said.

The lawmaker pointed out that, to quicken passage, it was imperative for the Budget to reach the Parliament before the Christmas break.

He said: “I feel the best thing to do is for the President to present the Budget, especially before we go on Christmas break.

“So that copies of the Budget will be circulated to members to enable them start work on it.

“On resumption immediately after Christmas, we will start working on considering the Budget for passage.

“So, I feel the reasonable thing to do is to receive Mr President in a joint session because it is very key to our national interest.

On alleged plans by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to create illegal polling units in Niger and Chad in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ndume said the Commission was being guided by law.

He expressed concern that the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, was crying wolf on the matter where there was none.

“I am aware of voting in various places, but I do not know if PDP wants to be INEC. The law is there and all actions of INEC will be guided by law.

“I was one of the Senators in the 7th Assembly that moved for amendment of the Electoral Act to accommodate Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“This was to ensure that they are not disenfranchised and I think that is what INEC is saying about the allegation by PDP.

“So, if PDP has any issue with that, I think they should look at the law first because INEC is responsible for conducting the election not PDP.”

The Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the 2019 Budget proposal on December 7.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the session, the Minister of Budget and Planning, Udoma Udoma said the Council will liaise with the National Assembly to determine when the President will submit the draft estimates for the consideration of the two chambers.

When asked to give details of the budget proposal, he declined to disclose the details, saying that the Nigerian Constitution only allows the President to give out the details and that the President would do so when the National Assembly is ready to receive the draft.

The FEC had on October 24, approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2019 to 2021 to provide template for the 2019 Budget.

The session which was presided over by President Buhari approved a Budget estimate of N8.73tr for the 2019 Budget, N400 billion lower than that of this year.

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