National Assembly Complex
The reconciliation committee of the National Assembly on the 2016 budget may return the corrected details of the appropriation bill to President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday (today), findings revealed on Friday.
The committee is chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Suleiman Lasun.
A second committee from the side of the executive is chaired by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH revealed that the two committees would meet, fine-tune the details of the budget and forward it to Buhari possibly today.
The President and the leadership of the National Assembly had agreed to set up the committees after a brief meeting on Wednesday night in Abuja to reconcile the “grey areas” in the N6.06tn budget.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, as well as the principal officers of both chambers attended the meeting, which was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Some senior officials of the National Assembly confided in Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the members of the Lasun committee worked all night on Thursday in a bid to speed up the reworking of the budget’s details.
“The Deputy Speaker and the other committee members slept at the secretariat on Thursday.
“They will likely sleep there today again (Friday) because their plan is to ensure that the budget details, as corrected, will reach Mr. President on Saturday,” one of the officials stated.
It was gathered that some members of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, which created the “distortions” in the first place, marveled at the work pace of the reconciliation committee.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that among the grey areas, which would now be deleted from the budget, were the N40bn lawmakers added to the original vote for zonal intervention projects.
Buhari initially proposed N60bn for the projects, but the lawmakers jacked it up to N100bn with an inflated N40bn.
Similarly, projects worth over N4bn, which the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, allegedly earmarked for his constituency in Kano State without the knowledge of his colleagues, would be removed from the details.
Saturday PUNCH also gathered that Buhari opposed all cuts in his original projections that were up to 40 per cent.
A source said, “The President wants the original figures retained because he feels the cuts will affect the implementation of the projects the funds were meant to serve.
“Any cut that is up to 40 per cent will be reduced. Of course, this will still not affect the overall budget size of N6.06tn.
“What will happen is that we will juggle round the details and adjust the smaller figures but still retain the N6.06tn.
“Distortions that crept into the budget will be removed to get the document ready for Presidential assent hopefully by Tuesday, next week.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, confirmed that it was the expectation of the National Assembly that the work would be “done with over the weekend.”
He added that the National Assembly hoped that the budget controversy would be resolved after May 1.