The Senate, yesterday, passed a bill extending the implementation of the capital component of the 2020 Appropriation Act to March next year.
Sponsored by Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, the movie was in fulfillment of an earlier request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The passage has, thus, effectively distorted the January to December life cycle of the financial document, which the current National Assembly once celebrated as a major achievement.
The upper legislative chamber suspended Order 44 of its Standing Rule for the piece of legislation to pass first, second and third readings.
Buhari had, on Tuesday, written to the lawmakers demanding a fresh review of the budget.
Dissecting the letter, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, at a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly, said the extension was to enable the Federal Government to execute the captured capital projects that were frustrated by the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal legislators had returned the country to a 12-month budget cycle with the 2020 Appropriation Act, making this year’s budget to expire on December 31, while the 2021 version, currently before the National Assembly, was to take effect from January 1.
Ahmed cited other reasons for the request to include difficulty in obtaining ‘certificates of no objection’ from the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) and delay in execution of capital projects by ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).
She pointed out that if the date was not extended, the government would have to mop up capital projects’ votes and return the same to the treasury, warning that such was not in the best interest of Nigerians.
Lamenting the situation, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the 12-month budget cycle feat made the economy not to suffer much of the harsh effects of the novel coronavirus.
“Bigger economies suffered more than we did in Nigeria. We went down by only six per cent. If the budget were not passed in December last year, it would have been worse. That is one of our contributions to the economy of Nigeria,” he clarified.
Lawan revealed that the Red Chamber would hold a special session on Monday to pass the 2021 budget.
He noted that the fiscal document had been delayed to allow the appropriation committee to insert a late request for fresh spending by the executive arm of government.
“Our Committee on Appropriation has been working round the clock. We had planned to receive its report today (yesterday), but there was a late request for some more expenditure from the executive arm of government,” Ahmad added.
He further hinted that the report would be ready by the weekend, adding: “We will hold a special session on Monday, December 21, 2020, to consider and pass the budget 2021.”
ALSO yesterday, Lawan administered the oath of office on Stephen Odey as the senator representing Cross River North.
The exercise, which held at exactly 11:45 a.m., was carried out by Clerk of the Senate, Dauda Ibrahim El-Ladan, immediately after the chamber rose from a closed-door session for plenary.
The inauguration was suspended on Tuesday following a court order.
MEANWHILE, the hallowed chamber has stepped down consideration of the Conference Committee Report 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The motion for its suspension till today was moved by Abdullahi and seconded by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe.