The Whip of the Senate, Ali Ndume, said the two chambers of the National Assembly quickly passed the N2.17 trillion supplementary budget to allow the government to meet up with some urgent time-bound issues.
Mr Ndume, who is also the deputy chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the action by the two chambers was done in the interest of the country.
The lawmaker stated this Saturday during a press briefing at the National Assembly Complex.
President Bola Tinubu transmitted the budget to the National Assembly on Tuesday and it was passed on Thursday.
Mr Ndume said the speedy passage was because there is a need for the federal government to pay wages of workers as agreed with the labour unions.
He explained further that the two chambers also considered that there is a need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police Force to prepare adequately for the logistics of the off-cycle elections that will be conducted on 11 November.
“The increases of prices of fuel, costs of essential services and food items have gone up in the country following the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
“Workers embarked on strike many times as a result of this and there were negotiations between the organised labour and the federal government.
“At the end of the negotiations, labour leaders and the federal government agreed that workers would be paid N35,000 in addition to their minimum wage.
“If N35,000 is paid to each of the over 1.5 million workers and the money is captured in the supplementary budget, it is imperative for us to approve it for immediate implementation.
“Apart from this, the Senate considered that since INEC has its off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states on November 11, and N18 billion was captured for that purpose in the supplementary budget, they need to access the funds for the proper conduct of the polls,” Mr Ndume said.
The legislator also listed the student loan scheme and takeoff of the newly created ministries for speedy passage.
“There were also agitations among parents of students in tertiary institutions following the increment in the tuition fees and the federal government came up with a wonderful idea of giving loans to students in tertiary institutions, hence the provision of N5.5 billion was made in the supplementary budget for that purpose also.
“The two chambers of the National Assembly met on it and we both agreed to jerk it up to N10 billion. This is because our members from the House of Representatives argue that the provision of N5 billion made for the procurement of the presidential yacht was not necessary at the moment.”
On Tuesday, President Bola Tinubu submitted a N2.17 trillion budget to the National Assembly. However, a review of the budget shows that it contained some extravagant spending including N5 billion for presidential yacht.
Following the public outcry, the House of Representatives passed the budget without the presidential yacht. It added the funds for the yacht to the student loan line of the budget.
The presidency, via a statement by Bayo Onanuga, said that the yacht was not meant for the president. He said the Navy had requested to buy the platform and it was approved by the last administration.
Mr Ndume claimed that the two chambers of the National Assembly agreed to step down the presidential yacht of N5 billion.
He said the members of the House of Representatives convinced the upper chamber that the yacht was not necessary.
“It was the yacht money that we added to the initial N5 billion provided for student loan which jerked it up to N10 billion.
“We had already acted on the N5 billion provided for the presidential yacht and removed it from the budget before the public outcry.
“It is not true that the Senate was silent on the N5 billion provided for the yacht. We had harmonised with the House of Representatives before the joint appropriations committee of both chambers prepared and presented their reports. It was even signed by the two chairmen.
“The only thing was that the Navy asked us to forget about the yacht and pleaded with us to allow them to have the N5 billion so as to enhance their operations, especially in the areas of fighting oil bunkering and crude theft in the Niger Delta and we immediately told them to utilise their operational funds for that purpose.”
President Tinubu is yet to sign the supplementary budget into law.
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