By Donald Ugwu
The Deputy Majority Leader in the Senate, Alhaji Bala Ibn Na’allah, on Wednesday said that the National Assembly, NASS, was unperturbed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s concerns about the adjustments it made in the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
Na’allah was reacting to Buhari’s criticisms during his budget signing speech on the reduction from the proposal sent to NASS and increasing it for some projects which he said might be difficult to execute.
He said that the job of the parliamentarians was a very difficult one, adding that the way the budget came warranted that the National Assembly carried out some adjustments.
“If we had allowed it to go the way it came, we would have been in trouble with those who elected us into office.
“You have to balance between the six geo-political zones.
“It is the balancing effort by the National Assembly that led to those observations and happily enough he himself has said that he is coming with supplementary appropriation which will be dealt with as quickly as possible.
“I assure you about that one.’’
According to the Senator the most important issue is that the supplementary budget does not last long in approval since it will be a build-up based on what has been done by the National Assembly on the main appropriation.
On the seven months delay before the approval of the budget, he said the president was right in his concern but recalled that the President himself had to order the MDAs to appear before the National Assembly to defend their allocations.
“It is a very delicate issue; if someone says he wants N500 billion for the maintenance of the nation’s bridges and then you expect the National Assembly to say that budget is approved because it is coming from the executive then we have not done our work.
“We will be interested in knowing which roads you say you want to maintain so that we do not give another allocation in the next budget.
“The President’s observations are correct but in the budgeting process those things are normal,’’ Na’allah stated.
He, however, said that Nigerians should be happy that the country had a budget to run for 2018 and it had been signed.
He also noted that the President had made it clear that it would be a buildup on the achievements of the administration in impacting positively on the lives of Nigerians.
Also speaking, Rep. Alhassan Doguwa, the Majority Whip, House of Representatives, said that some of the concerns raised by the President were critical, but added that he was at liberty to raise such concerns.
He said that having been signed into law, the NASS would expect the Executive to implement it.
“But the most important thing you have to note is that the budget is at least now signed by the President.
“The Budget is now law of the federation and we expect the executive arm of the government to now implement the budget to the letter.
“Should the President now have other concerns to bring about some supplementary budget for the National Assembly to consider, I think we will at the same time be at liberty to look at the President’s concerns and those things he wants us to review.
“I want to believe the NASS is always in a position to work hand in hand with the President.’’
The Rep noted that a lot of legislators in both chambers had great respect for Buhari and cherish his moral integrity as a leader.
“I want to believe that we will always play in tune with his expectations to be able to deliver on the dividends of democracy like he has promised especially in this election period,’’ he said.
Doguwa stated that those in the APC and others in the opposition were aware of the enormous responsibilities on the President’s shoulders.
He added that this was the time to cooperate with him to give him what he desired as the leader of the government to deliver on people’s expectations.
On the late signing of the budget, Doguwa said it was not caused by the NASS as its duty was not to sign but only to consider and pass it.
“Based on the processes that we face as an institution certainly you would not expect us to just rubber stamp and bring it back; we have to do the nitty-gritty of budget considerations.
“We do not consider it to be too long, whatever is worth doing is worth doing well; we have done the right thing we think should be done to deliver on the expectations and the mandate bestowed on us by the people of our constituencies.
“We have no regret about that,’’ he added.