By IKENNA EMEWU
The Nigerian National Assembly (NASS) has responded to the 2018 Budget signing speech of President Muhammadu Buhari raising issues about figure adjustments by the NASS.
In a statement signed by the committee chairmen on media of the Senate and House of Representatives, they noted that the major reason they adjusted figures in the budget was to correct inherent imbalances of the document the president submitted to it.
The imbalances, according to the NASS statement showed so much in allocations of capital projects in the geo-political zones.
NASS noted that: “Adjustments and reductions in the locations, costs and number of projects approved were made in order to address geo-political imbalances that came with the Executive proposal.
The introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria…”
The number of projects had to be increased in order to give a sense of belonging to every geo-political zone of the country to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command National loyalty.”
In continuation of the clarifications, the legislature also explained that: “It is therefore very clear that the three arms of government benefited from the increase which was mutually agreed on with the Ministry of Budget and Planning. In fact, we have correspondences addressed to the leadership of the National Assembly from Ministry of Budget making requests on how to spread the increment arising from the Benchmark differentials.
It should be noted that the budget of the National Assembly as at 2014 was N150billion, which is still N10.5billion more than our current figure despite increased national challenges that requires: frequent public hearings held on almost a daily basis at high costs; and intense oversight, which has become more thorough and incisive in order to check the Executive. The N139.5billion budget of the National Assembly represents less than 1.5percent of the entire N9trillion budget. Does it not make sense to use 1.5percent to protect the other 98.5percent?”
NASS assured that: “Within the context of the provisions of Sections 4, 80 and 81 of the Constitution, everything that the National Assembly has done is within its powers.”