THE controversy trailing the whereabout of the 2013 budget passed by the National Assembly last year has been put to rest as the Senate, yesterday, washed its hands of it, saying the appropriation bill was currently with the Presidency.
The Senate also advised those working for the President, including the Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms Arunma Oteh, to do their jobs in such a way that they would not bring bad blood between the presidency and the National Assembly, as according to it, “no individual is more important to the country than the rest.” Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) said: “The Senate has passed the 2013 budget, any other thing that is going on now is the normal course of the bureaucracy involved and I do not think that there would be any problem with that.
“The important thing to note is that the 2013 budget was passed on December 20, last year by a concurrence of both Houses and that officially, is the passage of the budget by the Parliament.”
On whether the budget had been sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for accent, Abaribe said: “I will assume that such had been done because after you have passed the budget, what is left is simply mechanical, you get a clean copy and send it. I am assuming that it must have been passed” (on to the presidency).
On the possibility of its implemention this month
On the possibility of the budget being implemented from this month, he said: “I do not think that it is late. This is January 14 and if the accent is done this January, the budget will start to operate. I would want us not to focus on this question of whether there is some lagging behind.
”I do not think that such a thing is significant for it to mean that the operation of the budget will not start from January. We worked assiduously to deliver to Nigerians what we had promised to do.”
This is in line also with the President’s (desire), when he delivered his budget address in the National Assembly, for us to keep to schedule. We had kept to our schedule and I think that Nigerians will not find us lagging behind in any way with regards to that.
”There are few agencies of government, who over time, their budgets usually come late. The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is one but if you also recollect, we passed a resolution on the floor of the Senate that we will no longer entertain government agencies of that nature; their budgets coming very late and we asked NDDC to also submit its 2013 budget, which had been done and for which we know that consideration must be expediciously done so that every government agency will work along the same time frame on the federal budget.
”That is our intention and I do not know of any other agency which budget is late because we have NDDC, Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, budgets.”
Senate not helpless on Maina
On the Senator Aloysius Etok-led Committee on Establishment, State and Local Government Administration’s invitation to the Inspector General of Police, following the inability of the police to arrest Mr Abdulrasheed Maina over the poor management of pension funds, Abaribe said the Senate would pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.
He said: ”It is necessary for Nigerians to know that a committee of the National Assembly in either House is a representative of that House. That means if a committee of the Senate is operating or summoning anybody, it is not just that committee, it is the whole Senate. That means whatever sanctions that are going to come are not just from that committee but the whole Senate.
“So, if a committee says we have already discussed with our leadership and this is the step we are going to take,then, you have to assume that such is a step approved by the Senate.
”But when committees seek further powers, they bring it to the floor of the Senate, then, we can all vote on it but the rule is that every committee is a representation of the Senate as a whole.
”On the matter of Maina, let me state unequivocally that the Senate cannot be said to be helpless on the matter. On the contrary, the Senate will and I want to underline that word, the Senate will pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.”
Warns against creating conflict between Jonathan, NASS
On delay in signing the budget of SEC,Abaribe said: “If in the opinion of House of Representatives, something needed to be done and urgently done, we can only advise and urge the President to take a very good look at the position of the House of Representatives. Beyond that, we also feel in the Senate that anybody that works for Mr. President should as much as possible, not put Mr. President at loggerheads with the Parliament. It doesn’t happen and I think that is the position that should be taken by anybody who loves this country.
”I don’t think there is any individual that is far more important to the country than the rest of us. The Parliament— the House of Representatives and the Senate — are the representatives of the people and whenever we collectively take a position, we assume that such position is in the best interest of the country. We have never taken a position here that was not in the best interest of the country and I think that should lay to rest, that matter.”
On Lagos Govt’s proposed loan
Abaribe also commented on the Lagos State government’s proposed loan, saying: “For any proposition to pass through the Nigerian legislature, it has to have the concurrence of both Houses and if the Lagos State government had come to make a presentation to the House of Representatives and subsequently the Senate, the Senate will take it, then, it will be taken at the plenary and we will look at it as the case may be.
”So, if anybody says that if Lagos does not get a loan, then Nigeria will suffer an economic crisis, that is stretching matters. What we say is make your case and if it is as good as everybody will see it, then, there would be no reason for the parliament not to assist and grant whatever requests that were made.
”But if you have a problem within the executive because this is a problem between the state and federal executive, then, both must come to make their cases to us to see whether we will approve or not but I will not want this matter to be seen as a Nigeria breaking up matter. I don’t think it has reached that stage.”