President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday gave a marching order to the heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government to appear before the National Assembly and defend their budget. This was the outcome of the meeting the President had with the leadership of the National Assembly at the presidential villa, Abuja yesterday.
The leadership of the National Assembly was led to the meeting by Senate President Bukola Saraki. The meeting was coming barely 48 hours after the President declined assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 sent for his signature by the parliament. Though agenda of the meeting was not known 2019 election sequence, Peace Corp bill, as well as security issues were expected to be discussed. It was learnt that the non-passage of the 2018 appropriation bill by the National Assembly was also said to be one of the top items on the agenda of the meeting. Buhari had on November 7, 2017 laid the 2018 budget proposals before the NASS with the hope that the appropriation bill might be passed on or before the end of 2017.
However, the lawmakers had accused some cabinet ministers of failing to appear before them to defend their ministries’ budgets. Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, Saraki said it was an interaction between the National Assembly and the executive. He said the meeting also discussed the 2019 budget which the National Assembly is working hard to get passed. According to him, “We are working on it but there are still some issues from the agencies who are yet to defend their budget. We are hoping that they will appear soon.” Also speaking, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said it was basically an in-house meeting aimed at cementing a cordial working relationship between the executive and the National Assembly.
Mustapha said: “We want to continue building a harmonious working relationship. The President gave them an update on security, economy and job creation. “We also discussed the issue of the processes in the National Assembly with regards to conclude on the budget. “And the President has given instructions that all ministers and parastatal should ensure that they appear before the National Assembly to defend their submission so that we can get this out of the way.
“You know that this is a very dynamic year and there is preparation for election and we are having a lot of security challenges, so if we don’t appropriate, where will the money come from to do all what the Federal government require,” he added. The meeting ended at about 10:36pm. However, most principal officers elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were absent at the meeting.
Those absent were Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu; the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio; the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha and Deputy Minority Whip, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi. The meeting started at 9:10p.m. after the president walked in. Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara; deputy speaker, Lasun Yusuf; Senate Leader, Dr. Ahmed Lawan; House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Sola Adeyeye also attended. Others present were Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda; House Chief Whip, Hon. Al-Hassan Dogowa and Deputy Whip, Hon. Pally Iriase. All principal officers from the platform of the ruling party in both houses were present, while only Aduda came from the opposition party.