The Senate on Wednesday gave a two-week ultimatum to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to submit the 2017 budgets of Federal Government agencies, corporations and parastatals.
The lawmakers issued the ultimatum at a plenary following a motion by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, on the alleged non-compliance with Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by some government agencies.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, had on Tuesday said of the 38 affected organisations, only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, Bureau of Public Enterprises and the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure had submitted their budgets.
In the motion titled: ‘Non-Submission of 2017 Budget by Public Corporations in Violation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act,’ N’Allah said the failure to submit the proposals by the affected corporations to the National Assembly was becoming worrisome.
He stated, “The Senate observes that non-compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act constitutes an abuse of power and economic sabotage aimed at frustrating the current economic measures being taken by the present administration to address the economic recession.”
The lawmakers unanimously granted the prayer of the motion to “urge the President to, as a matter of urgency, submit the budgets of parastatals and agencies to the National Assembly in accordance with the provision of Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act not later than two weeks.”
Seconding the motion, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, pointed out that the Constitution was supreme and its provisions were a binding force on all authorities and persons in the country.
Citing Section 80(3) of the Constitution, Ekweremadu urged the Senate to bar errant agencies and corporations from capital expenditure until their budgets had been passed by the legislature.
“I recall that in 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari sent to this National Assembly the Appropriation Act for that year together with those estimates. While in 2017, the ministers find it impossible to accompany the same Appropriation Bill 2017 with those estimates of the agencies under them. We cannot be going back and forth. I believe that this is the time for us to insist, under Section 88 that gives us power of oversight, that this has to be done.”
Also, Senator George Sekibo cited Section 5(1) (b) of the Constitution that the executive was meant to maintain and enforce laws.
He stated, “And if the law says at certain months before January, the budget of a corporation should be presented to the National Assembly and year in and year out, we keep on crying for the same thing, what do we do?
In his submission, Senator Olamilekan Adeola said the total sum of the budgets of Federal Government parastatals was bigger than the N7.441tn general budget of the government.
“What we are talking about here today is in excess of N10tn in the hands of the parastatals of the Federal Government. It is saddening to note that in the same way and the same tradition, these parastatals are trying to ensure that every year they continue to do the same thing over their budgets,” he said.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, described the issue as a corruption matter, stating that the trend must stop.
He said, “Truly, this motion is at the heart of this fight against corruption and I cannot see how we can continue in a society where we are fighting corruption, where people will be spending money without approval and without appropriation. It must stop, it will stop and it is going to stop from now.
“Clearly, we have made our position that based on this amendment, that these agencies must get their budgets to us in two weeks. Committee chairmen, I want to appeal that once we get the budgets, on our own part as well, let us ensure that we treat them publicly, very diligently and try and turn them around as quickly as possible.”
The corporations, agencies and corporations with independent budgets are the BPE, NASENI, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, National Maritime Authority, Raw Materials Research and Development Council, National Sugar Development Council, Nigerian Postal Service, Nigerian Ports Authority and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
Other are the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, National Communications Commission, National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, Nigeria Customs Service and the National Broadcasting Commission.
Also on the list are the National Insurance Commission, News Agency of Nigeria, Nigerian Copyrights Commission, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Radio Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority, Nigerian Television Authority, National Automotive Design and Development Council, and the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority.
The National Business and Technical Examination Board, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, Industrial Training Fund, Corporate Affairs Commission, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, as well as the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority are also to submit their budgets to the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Misuse, Non-remittance Internally Generated Revenue and Fraudulent Acts by Government Agencies, Adeola, has accused most university administrators in the country of “cooking up figures in their yearly accounts as a way of evading payment of operating surpluses.”