Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, wednesday hinted that the 2018 Appropriation Bill would be passed in the lower chamber onApril 24.
The announcement during plenary, ushered a ray of hope that the disagreement over the timely passage of the budget would at least be brought to an end.
Also, all committees are required to submit their budget reports to the appropriation committee by April 19, prior to the passage date.
The federal government had on Tuesday directed all its agencies to submit their budget proposals to the National Assembly latest March 24.
But except there’s a special plea by the leadership of the House to its relevant committees to take it easy on the agencies and work with whatever information that is provided by the agencies- including de-emphasising on how previous appropriation had been spent, next month’s anticipated passage might be truncated.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, are among ministers whose ministries or agencies under their purview, are yet to conclude their budget defence.
A document from the Senate showed that the Ministry of Solid Minerals, headed by Mr. Kayode Fayemi, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have not completed the defence of their 2018 budget estimates before the relevant committees of the Senate.
Other defaulting ministries are Housing, Health, National Planning, Science and Technology, Foreign Affairs, among several others.
The document revealed that the Nigeria Railway Corporation, Nigeria Postal Service, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Nigeria Institute of Transport, Federal Mortgage Bank and the Federal Housing Authority are yet to submit their budget estimates to the National Assembly.
Also, the Senate yesterday directed its committees to submit the budget reports of the MDAs under their purview to the Committee on Appropriation latest byMarch 29, 2018.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, made the announcement and added that the committees who have concluded their work on the budget can begin submission from today.
Nonetheless, the lower chamber appeared to have commenced the legislative processes of overriding President Muhammadu Buhari on 10 bills which he had vetoed recently.
The bills included the Nigerian Peace Corps bill, the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, Police Procurement Fund Bill were listed for first reading, though no action was taken on them yet.
The House has not vacated its earlier position that it will tweak and resend the Electoral amendment Bill, particularly, the aspect dealing with the reordering of the 2019 election to Buhari for assent even though the Senate had said it would override the President on it.
A legal fireworks had since commenced on the part of the executive to stop the National Assembly from proceeding with it moves to override Buhari.
Also, introduced for first reading was the Ajaokuta Steel Company Fund Bill; Aso Villa Hospital (Establishment) Bill and Currency Conversion (Freezing Orders) Act (Amendment) Bill among others.
Meanwhile, the House also passed a motion mandating its Committee on Niger Delta to carry out a comprehensive probe into the management of funds to the Office of the Presidential Amnesty Office from 2015 to date and assess the impact of the programme on the ex-agitators in the region.
The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Abubakar Chika Adamu (APC, Niger) on the need to investigate the activities of the Presidential Amnesty Office to ensure accountability and efficiency of the programme.
He said it had become worrisome that allegations of corruption and ineptitude had always bedeviled the amnesty scheme since it’s inception, resulting in hitches in the implementation of programmes, particularly the non payment of billions of naira as outstanding allowances to the ex-militants.
He further noted that President Buhari had recently relieved the coordinator of the scheme, Brig. Gen. Paul Boroh (rtd), of his duties on the heels of a ellegations of mismanagement of funds by the office under his watch.
Adamu said though Buhari had further directed the National Security Adviser to investigate the activitiesof the office from 2015 to date-that covers only three years out of the nine-year existence of the amnesty programme.
Also yesterday, the lower chamber referred one of its members, Hon. Johnson Agbonayinma (APC, Edo) to its Committee on Ethics and Discipline to be investigated following allegations that he maligned the House during a recent television interview.
He was reported to have criticised the green chamber over the passage of the Electoral Act, an action which members said should be appropriately investigated and necessary punitive measure taken against him if found wanting.
Agbonayinma, a former member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), recently defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a move which created bitter rancour with his former party members.
Since he announced his defection, efforts have been made by PDP House members to frustrate any motion he sponsors.