The House of Representatives on kicked against the position of President Muhammadu Buhari that federal lawmakers do not have the rights to alter the budget as proposed by the Executive.
Buhari had during the signing of the 2018 Budget accused lawmakers of introducing over 6,000 projects worth N578 billion into the Budget, while removing over 4,000 projects proposed by the Executive and cutting the budget by over N300 billion.
He said this was without consultation with the executive.
But reacting to the position of the President, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, said the budget is usually a proposal by the Executive to the National Assembly, which the latter has the constitutional power to alter, make additions or reduce as it may deem necessary.
Namdas said: “The legislature is not expected to be a ‘rubber-stamp’ by simply approving the Executive’s proposals and returning the budget to the President. Therefore, the additions the president complained of in his speech are justifiable.
“We are on the same page with the president in his desire to return our budget cycle to January-December.
“By the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, the budget estimates should be with the National Assembly around September of the year.
“In the case of the 2018 budget, the estimates came behind schedule, in November, 2017, even though this attempt was seen as one of the earliest in recent years.
“Going forward, we urge the Executive to speed up the reporting time to the National Assembly by complying fully with the FRA.”
The lawmaker also noted that there were delays from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies during budget defence, which made the process slow.
Namdas said: “Besides, there were delays that should be blamed on the heads of MDAs. The president will recall that he had to direct ministers and heads of agencies to go to the National Assembly to defend their proposals.
“This came after the National Assembly had persistently raised the alarm over the uncooperative attitude of these government officials. On these grounds, the delay in passing the budget cannot be blamed on the legislature.”
On Buhari’s observation of new projects in the budget, Namdas said: “We have to remind the president that we are representatives of our people and wish to state that even the common man deserves mention in the budget.
“This is done by including projects that will directly affect his life positively.
“Some of the projects designed by the executive, as high-sounding as their names suggest, do not meet the needs of the common man.
“Before 2015, the budget of the National Assembly was N150 billion for several years. It was cut down to N120 billion in 2015 and further down to N115 billion in 2016.
“In 2017, the budget was N125 billion and N139.5 billion in 2018. This means that the budget of the National Assembly is still far below the N150 billion in the years before 2015.
“While we commend the president for a good working relationship, we also wish to state that we have a job to do, which requires adequate funding as well.
“The additional costs and projects to the budget were done in good faith for the sole purpose of improving the lives of Nigerians.
“Finally, we welcome the proposal by the president to forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly to address other areas of pressing demands and commend him and the entire executive arm for a cordial working relationship.”