It has now emerged Nigeria’s 2017 budget proposal will be passed at least days after the expiration of the current 2016 budget, after the National Assembly failed to pass the 2017 appropriations bill today, Thursday, which is the last day the lawmakers have for business in the week.
By provision of the 2016 Appropriations Act, the 2016 budget expires on May 5, 2017, having been assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 6, 2016.
The chairman of the Senate committee on appropriations, Danjuma Goje, had in March promised that the 2017 budget would be laid and passed before the expiration of the current budget.
“As far as the Bill that was signed into law by Mr. President is concerned, there will be no mop up on 31st March 2017 since the validity period for the 2016 budget ends midnight May 5th, 2017,” said Mr. Goje.
“If that is done, it will be a violation of the Act. We carefully created the clause that made provision for May 5, 2017. The Act says that the 2016 budget will run for 12 months starting from the date the bill was assented to and it was assented to on May 6th 2016.
“I believe before that date the 2017 budget must have been passed. We don’t have to do any extension because we have taken care of that. Therefore, no anxiety, no mopping up of funds before 12 months period,” the senator said in March.
Although presentation of the report on 2017 budget was included on the Senate’s Order Paper for Thursday, it was stepped down.
The Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, told the Senate the order could not be taken because members of the appropriations committee were meeting with their counterparts in the House of Representatives to “to cross the t’s and dot the i’s of the 2017 budgeting.”
He added that he been informed that “by the grace of God” the 2017 budget would be ready for passage next week Tuesday.
“Having said this, distinguished colleagues, I therefore move that we step down, we stand down the presentation of this report to Tuesday, the next legislative day,” Mr. Lawan moved.
The Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Abdullahi, told the Nigerian Television Authority, during an interview session monitored by PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday that the police raid on the residence of Mr. Goje could have implication for the readiness of the budget this week.
Mr. Goje had alleged the police carted away laptop and documents containing his committee’s work on the 2017 budget from his residence during the raid. The presidential adviser on the Senate, Ita Enang, later said “all items” taken from the senator’s residence had been returned by the police.
The 2017 budget proposal was presented before a joint session of the National Assembly last December.
Despite the non-passage of the budget on Thurday, it will not lead to a government shutdown when the 2016 budget ends on Friday. This is because Section 82 of the constitution allows the president to authorise withdrawal from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of meeting expenditure necessary to carry on services of the government until the coming into operation of the new budget.
Speaking on this Eze Onyekpere, a fiscal policy expert and Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice said the government is empowered by law to “continue to spend” after expiration of the current budget, until a new budget is approved.
The Director of Information at the Ministry of Finance, Salisu Danbatta, also expressed a similar view