Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Senate on Wednesday warned that any Federal Government Ministry, Department and Agency that failed to appear before its relevant standing committees to defend its budget estimates would get zero allocation this fiscal year.
The lawmakers, therefore, adjourned plenary to next week Tuesday, asking the MDAs to come for budget defence latest by Friday.
The Senate also stated its commitment to passing the 2017 Appropriation Bill by the second week of March.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, while addressing journalists after the plenary on Wednesday, explained that the lawmakers were forced to create additional days for the budget defence.
He said there was a meeting between the leadership of the Senate and chairmen of committees to do an appraisal of the defence sessions.
Abdullahi said, “We are committed to ensuring that by the second week of March, we are done with the 2017 appropriation. This explains why we also have to, having considered the progress report from chairmen of committees, suspend plenary today so that the committees can go back and complete their assignments so that by next week, the Appropriations Committee can begin to collect reports from the various committees.
“Suffice to say here that the Senate is calling on all the MDAs that are joking; we call it joking because the issue of appropriation should be the most important assignment of any MDA; that it is a bit worrisome that some MDAs choose not to appear or when to appear.
“So, the Senate is giving them this opportunity. If you are out there and you still have issues or need to provide information or clarification to your committee, you better do that. Otherwise, this time round, the Senate is committed to taking legislative action and will definitely bring its full force of legislative action to bear on people who have been found to be defaulting.”
When asked what the Senate would do to errant MDAs, Abdullahi replied, “The power to appropriate is with the National Assembly. The essence of meeting with the committees is to defend why you want funds to be released to you to carry out your duties.
“If you consider it as unimportant, what we will do is to simply allow your staff members enjoy their salaries. But with respect to capital (expenditure), definitely, if you don’t come to defend it, we will definitely take it out and give it to those who are serious. That means you will be having zero allocation. It is very clear.”
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, had earlier in the plenary moved a motion to step down the items on the order paper for the day, lamenting that despite going into a three-week recess for budget defence, the response from the executive had been poor.
He recalled that the issues frustrating the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill were discussed at a meeting the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, held with leaders and chairmen of Senate committees on Tuesday.
He, therefore, asked that the plenary be adjourned to allow lawmakers attend to budget matters for the rest of the day.
Seconding the motion, the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, asked for more days “in order for us to tidy up this budget and meet the aspiration of Nigerians by ensuring an expeditious passage of the budget as earlier planned by these hallowed chambers.”
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