Saraki, Dog­ara’s Ab­sence Stalls 2018 Bud­get Sign­ing…

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Obinna Chima

The sign­ing of the 2018 Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, which was ex­pected to hold yes­ter­day could not be­cause of the ab­sence of Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Hon. Yakubu Dog­ara, who were out of the coun­try, a pres­i­dency source has told THISDAY.

THISDAY had re­ported on Mon­day that the money bill would be signed yes­ter­day.

But the Spe­cial Ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent on Me­dia and Public­ity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told State House correspondents af­ter the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil meet­ing, that the bill would be signed next week.

How­ever, a THISDAY source said the pres­i­den­tial as­sent would be on Tues­day, while the bud­get anal­y­sis has now been fixed for Wed­nes­day.

Al­though there is no le­gal re­quire­ment for the lead­er­ship of the fed­eral leg­is­la­ture to be present at the sign­ing cer­e­mony, the con­ven­tion is that both lead­ers of the two arms of the Na­tional As­sem­bly as well as Min­is­ters of Fi­nance and Bud­get and Na­tional Plan­ning, as well as some other cab­i­net mem­bers wit­ness the sign­ing of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill into law.

“The sign­ing of the bud­get was post­poned be­cause the Se­nate Pres­i­dent and Speaker are not in the coun­try. We ex­pect them to be back be­fore next week Mon­day and by Tues­day the bud­get would be signed and by next week Wed­nes­day we would have the bud­get anal­y­sis,” the source ex­plained.

Say­ing the THISDAY re­port was not nec­es­sar­ily wrong, the source ex­plained that the de­ci­sion to stop the pres­i­den­tial as­sent cer­e­mony was taken late Mon­day night be­cause both Saraki and Dog­ara that were ex­pected back in the coun­try could not make it.

While the Se­nate pres­i­dent is in Saudi Ara­bia for the lesser Hajj, the Speaker is in Lon­don for an ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship course at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics and Po­lit­i­cal Science (LSE).

The pres­i­dent had last Novem­ber laid the 2018 Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill be­fore a joint ses­sion of the Na­tional As­sem­bly. How­ever, it was not un­til May 16 (six months af­ter), that the fed­eral leg­is­la­ture passed the bill. Af­ter­ward, it took them an­other 10 days to trans­mit it to the pres­i­dent. But the pres­i­dent also dithered in ap­pend­ing his sig­na­ture.

The THISDAY source had ex­plained the de­lay the in pres­i­den­tial as­sent, say­ing the pres­i­dent had a win­dow to go through the fis­cal doc­u­ment be­fore sign­ing, not­ing that the pres­i­dent has not yet ex­hausted the win­dow.

How­ever, he dis­closed that bar­ring any last-minute change of plan, he was con­fi­dent the pres­i­dent would as­sent to the bud­get Wed­nes­day at the State House.

If the pres­i­dent had as­sented to the 2018 Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill Tues­day (June 12, 2018), it would have amounted to a re­peat of the 2017 Bud­get, which was also signed by the then act­ing Pres­i­dent (now Vice Pres­i­dent), Prof. Yemi Os­in­bajo, on June 12, 2017 af­ter it was passed by the Na­tional As­sem­bly on May 5, 2017.

Buhari had laid a pro­posal for N8.6 tril­lion but the fed­eral leg­is­la­tors had in­creased it to N9.1 tril­lion, an ad­di­tional N508 bil­lion, they ex­plained was ap­plied to crit­i­cal sec­tors of the econ­omy, in­clud­ing the re­duc­tion of the bud­get deficit, se­cu­rity, health and power, works and hous­ing.

The in­cre­ment had trig­gered fears that the ex­ec­u­tive might de­cline as­sent, re­play­ing the al­ter­ca­tion over the 2017 bud­get.

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