Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Henceforth, the National Assembly will pass the annual Appropriation Bill within three months, Senate President Ahmad Lawan pledged yesterday in Abuja.
Lawan who gave the assurance while answering questions from journalists in the State House, said that the unanimous decision was a joint agreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
However, he was swift to add that fulfilling this promise would be premised on the preparedness of the executive to live up to its responsibility by presenting the budget early enough.
According to Lawan, if the budget is presented in September or October, the National Assembly will ensure its passage before proceeding on Christmas break every year.
He explained that getting that done would require a sacrifice by both the National Assembly and the executive.
The Senate President, while noting that it will be desirable that ministers and heads of agencies come to defend the budgets of their ministries and agencies at the nick of time, threatened that in situations where government officials fail to turn up for the defence of their budgets, the National Assembly will proceed to legislate on such budgets as it deems fit.
Lawan added that the ninth National Assembly was in a haste to support President Muhammadu Buhari and nobody was expected to slow down the process.
He declared: “This (budget delay) is a crucial thing that worries everyone. Every Nigerian wants to see the National Assembly pass the budget in good time and what we have in mind, we’ve campaigned with that, and it’s something both of us in the National Assembly have bought into, that we’ll pass the budget within three months by the grace of God.
“But I want to say here that it takes two sides of government to pass the budget in good time and I am sure that the executive side of the government will like to present the budget before the National Assembly in good time – in September or early October – and by the grace of God, we in the National Assembly will ensure that we carry out the budget defence and do the remaining parts of the processes and before we leave for Christmas break, the budget would have been passed and Mr. President would have the budget before him to sign.”
The Senate President explained further: “This requires sacrifice in the National Assembly and the executive side of the government that we create a window for budget defence within a dedicated period and timeframe – say a month of which only budget defence would be carried out in the National Assembly.
“It is our desire in the National Assembly that every minister, every chief executive officer of every agency comes to the National Assembly to defend the budget of his agency or her agency before going out of the country. That window is going to be available within the one month but that is the only window that is going to be available. After that for example, every minister or head of agency who did not come to defend the budget of that institution, the National Assembly will go ahead to work on such a budget appropriately.
“I believe that nobody will take pleasure in wasting the time of this administration. We are in a hurry. We are thirsty to perform. We want to support Mr. President. We want to see Mr. President achieve those legacies, dreams that he has and we are going to work full course and full time to ensure that we give him the maximum support that he requires.”
Lawan also unfolded the agenda of the ninth National Assembly, promising that the legislative arm under his leadership will be focused, united, patriotic and nationalistic in nature.
He recalled that during the recent race for the office of the Senate President, senators demonstrated a sense of patriotism and the desire to serve Nigerians, reiterating that he hoped to lead a National Assembly that will collaborate effectively with the executive arm to achieve the overall purpose of government.
Lawan expressed the hope that the ninth National Assembly would hold members of the executive accountable with a view to averting deficiency in the system adding that the federal legislative house will work hard to make up for the setback of the last four years.
According to him, the eight National Assembly failed to perform optimally and hence, the current ninth assembly is prepared to make up for the lost grounds.
He said: “The expectations from Nigerians is a National Assembly that is very focused, that is very united, that is very patriotic and nationalistic and that is by the grace of God, the National Assembly that we shall have.
“I saw that my colleagues exhibited patriotism and desire to work for Nigerians and therefore we hope to have a National Assembly that will work for Nigerians optimally and patriotically. We also hope to have a National Assembly that will work with the executive arm of government in partnership and synergy to ensure that we perform our functions as a government because we are a single unit.
“I also foresee a National Assembly that will insist that whoever has a responsibility in government performs that responsibility because it takes all of us to work together to ensure that no part, or nobody is left behind. If there is anyone that is deficient, it will cost the system.
“So, we are going to work very hard. We will like to catch up the lost grounds over the last four years. I am sure we did not perform to our capacity as a National Assembly in the last National Assembly. This time around, we want to perform to full capacity and by the grace of God, Nigerians will see a positive difference in terms of the delivery of service to our country men and women.”