President Muhammadu Buhari has placed a temporary ban on foreign travels by all members of his cabinet and other government officials.
The new directive was announced Friday evening by Willie Bassey, the director of information in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“Sequel to the presentation of the 2020 Appropriation Bill by Mr President to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the immediate suspension of international travels by all Cabinet Members and Heads of Government Agencies so as to enable Honourable Ministers personally lead the process of Budget defence at the National Assembly,” the statement said.
“The suspension of such travels will enable functionaries and agencies of the Executive Arm to provide the required cooperation with the Legislature in order to ensure timely passage of the Appropriation Bill.
“Honourable Ministers who have already secured approval to travel are by this directive, required to revalidate such approvals with Mr President after confirming the Schedule of Appearances with the relevant committees of the National Assembly.
“Furthermore, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been directed to liaise with the relevant committees of the National Assembly for their Schedules of Budget defence.”
President Buhari had on Tuesday presented the year 2020 N10.33 trillion budget proposal to a joint session of the National Assembly.
The President said the early presentation of the financial estimate to the National Assembly was to enable the country to return to the January-December budget cycle.
Shortly after the presentation of the budget, the Senate gave October 31 as the deadline for all government agencies to defend their budget estimates to enable the passage of the document in December.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said all Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs) should appear before the Committees for the defence of their Budget estimates without delay.
On Friday, Mr Lawan reiterated that position, saying the National Assembly would not allow Ministers or Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to frustrate it from passing the budget by December.
“The National Assembly will do the right thing; which is to work on the budget and pass it,” Mr Lawan said at the unveiling of the Legislative Agenda of the House of Representatives.
“We will not allow anyone to frustrate our desire to pass the 2020 Budget before the end of this year. So, it is an opportunity for all those concerned with defending their budgets, to take the advantage,” Mr Lawan said.
The Senate President has been consistent in his desire to reverse the current unpredictable financial year to a more predictable January to December cycle of budgeting.
To achieve what some people consider a tall order, the leadership of the ninth National Assembly has repeatedly warned government officials to take advantage of the opportunity to defend their budget estimates on schedule.
Mr Lawan, who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly, said: “one thing that we have collectively decided in the National Assembly, is to pass the budget 2020 before the end of the year.
“Already, the House has suspended plenary; the Senate will do same on Tuesday next week for the consideration of budget defence by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
“Only the window of October is available for budget defence. Any Minister or Head of Agency who decides to travel out of Nigeria, without defending his or her respective budget would have no opportunity to do so.”