The House of Representatives yesterday justified its decision to raise the budget estimates by N578 billion.
It also reiterated its stance not be subservient to the Executive on national budget preparation and approvals. The House absolved itself of blame in the late passage of the budget. It blamed it all on the Executive.
In its reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s complaints while signing the 2018 Appropriation Act, the House said it is within its constitutional powers to alter the document.
The statement yesterday by its spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas, said it jacked up the 2018 budget because some of the projects designed by the executive did not meet the needs of the common man.
The lawmakers said the additional costs and projects to the budget were done in good faith for the sole purpose of improving the lives of Nigerians.
The statement reads: “The House of Representatives is appreciative of President Muhammadu Buhari in signing the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law and wish to make the following observations:
”That the budget is usually a proposal by the Executive to the National Assembly, which the latter is given the constitutional power of appropriation to alter, make additions, costs or reduce as it may deem necessary. The Legislature is not expected to be a rubber-stamp by simply approving the Executive proposals and returning the budget to Mr. President. Therefore, the additions Mr. President complained of in his speech are justifiable.
”We are on the same page with Mr. 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.
”Besides, there were delays that should be blamed on the heads of MDAs. Mr. 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 non-cooperative attitudes of these government officials. On this grounds, the delay in passing the budget cannot be blamed on the legislature.
”New projects in budget. On this aspect, we have to remind Mr. President that we are representatives of our people and wish to state that even the common man deserves a mention in the budget 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.
“National Assembly budget. Before 2015, the budget of the National Assembly was N150billion for several years. It was cut down to N120bn in 2015 and further down to N115bn in 2016. In 2017, the budget was N125bn and N139.5bn in 2018. This means that the budget of the National Assembly is still far below the N150bn in the years before 2015.”