National Assembly, Ministers, others, meet to resolve 2016 budget impasse

Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma
Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma

Anxious to expeditiously resolve the impasse currently stalling the passage of the 2016 Federal Budget, the executive and the leadership of the National Assembly have closed ranks to ensure that the Appropriation Bill was passed latest by the second week of March.

A top Presidency official told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that key officials in the Ministries of Budget & National Planning, Finance and other relevant agencies with roles in the budgeting process, were meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the way forward.

The official, who asked that his identity be protected as he was not authorized to speak officially on the matter, said representatives of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) office, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and other government revenue generating agencies, were part of the meeting.

On the National Assembly’s side, apart from the principal officers of its leadership, the official said others who were also in attendance at the series of meetings were members of the relevant committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

According to the official, the main objective of the meeting was to accomplish President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that the two arms of government should close ranks and come together to reconcile all discrepancies and errors delaying the approval of the budget by the National Assembly.

“The president is very worried about what is going on. He is anxious to get the impasse behind him as soon as possible, to enable him face the serious business of governance.

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“The essence of the meetings is clear: to enable all parties identify all thorny issues, correct all errors in the budget, and get a clean copy of the document approved on or before the second week of March,” he said.

He expressed optimism that the objective would realized, pointing out that at the end of the second meeting on Tuesday night, confidence was high that some significant progress was recorded towards a consensus on how the impasse could be resolved.

“What they are trying to do is to attempt to find the best way possible to get the matter behind them. They are focused on streamlining the main issues underlining the crisis, and work towards the early passage of the budget,” he said.

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the immediate investigation into allegations of fraudulent padding of allocations in the 2016 budget.

A number of questionable details uncovered after the budget was presented on December 22, 2015 had compelled the National Assembly to suspend deliberations on the document.

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