President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, disclosed Wednesday that the Senate will next week Monday, 21st December, 2020, hold a special session to pass the 2021 budget presently before the National Assembly.
The Senate has also extended the implementation of the capital budget of 2020 by three months from December 31st, 2020 to March, 31st 2021. The action of the upper legislative chamber followed an Executive bill for an Act to amend the 2020 Appropriation Act.
Lawan spoke during plenary following a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC – Kebbi North and seconded by the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South. According to the President of the Senate, the delay in the passage of the budget was to allow the Committee on Appropriations include a late request for additional expenditures from the Executive arm of government.
Lawan said, “Our Committee on Appropriations has been working round the clock. We had planned to receive the report of the Committee on Appropriations today, but there was a late request for some more expenditures from the Executive arm of Government, and we want to ensure that our Committee does work to produce a clean document, so they can’t present this document today.
“However, the Committee has said the report will be ready by weekend. Consequently, we will hold a special session on Monday, the 21st of December, 2020, just to consider and pass the budget 2021.
“This is in keeping with our legislative agenda of ensuring that the annual budget has a January to December cycle. We did that last year, and by the grace of God, we will do it again.”
Earlier, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi said that the adjustment had become necessary as a result of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant period of lockdown that made it difficult for virtually all the Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) to implement their capital projects. According to him, some MDAs has about 71% of their capital budget untouched; stressing that the extension will enable the affected government agencies access and utilize their capital expenditure. President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday written to the National Assembly to demand fresh amendment to the 2020 Appropriation Act.
Based on this Presidential request, the Senate suspended Order 44 of its Standing Rules to give the amendment bill accelerated consideration; scaling first, second and third reading in less than 1 hour. At the Committee of Supply; Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central advised Senate to simply add a proviso to Section 12 which states the tenure of the budget; against its initial plans to have it completely deleted. According to Bamidele, deleting Section 12 will remove the force of law from all the capital expenditure previously embarked on.
Speaking with Journalists later, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Bashiru explained that the extension was to save the country and the economy from embarrassment as well as ensure effective utiization of money already released for projects. He said to ensure fuller implementation of the 2020 budget; the Senate decided to err on the side of prudence and permitted the expansion of the capital aspect of the 2020 budget.
The National Assembly had returned the country to January-December budget cycle; making the tenure of the 2020 Appropriation Act to expire on December, 31st, 2020.
Bashiru dismissed fears being expressed in some quarters that the amendment has rubbished the much celebrated achievement by the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday stepped down the consideration of the Conference Committee Report 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). The request to step down the consideration of the 2021 – 2023 MTEF report till Thursday, 17th December, 2020 was moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi and seconded by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe.
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