John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu
President Muhammadu Buhari will present the 2018 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly today (Tuesday).
The 2018 budget proposal presentation is scheduled to hold at 2pm.
The Federal Government plans to spend about N8.6tn next year, a jump of about 15 per cent from the N7.44tn budgeted for the current year.
The figures were contained in the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, which Buhari had earlier sent to the National Assembly in compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
The PUNCH, however, gathered that leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives were making last minute efforts to prevent drama during the presentation.
A source in the Senate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed on Monday that both the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, held series of meetings with members of both chambers to douse the brewing tension since Buhari’s letter informing the lawmakers of the presentation last week.
The source informed one of our correspondents that some members of the House of Representatives specifically had made moves to prevent Buhari from laying the budget proposal today, while calling for postponement of the presentation.
Leaders of both chambers were said to have begun a massive lobbying of the lawmakers, especially the aggrieved ones, and held meetings with them simultaneously on Monday.
The source said, “The President will present the budget on Tuesday (today) but there is an issue. Some members of the National Assembly, particularly in the House of Representatives, are against the presentation of a new budget proposal when the current one has not been implemented considerably.
“If you recall, there were protests in the House of Representatives when the President’s letter was read last week. The issue now is how to contain the aggrieved lawmakers so that they will not raise their grievances as Buhari presents the budget. Their grouse may be legitimate but we don’t want a situation where the session will record unpalatable drama or become rowdy.
“This is the reason why there have been series of meetings with caucuses in the chambers, including the one by the leaders, which will hold tonight (Monday). Again, it is most likely that there will be a closed-door session at the beginning of the plenary tomorrow; this is another way of preventing a crisis.”
Members of the House of Representatives had on Thursday protested as Buhari requested their permission in a letter to present the estimates of the 2018 budget to the joint session of the National Assembly.
Dogara, however, reminded his colleagues that under the Constitution, they could not refuse to receive the appropriation bill from the President.
Meanwhile, businesses in and around the National Assembly Complex are set to be negatively affected by Buhari’s presence on the premises. It was reliably gathered that a circular was sent to private offices in the building to close shop for the day.
A worker in one of the commercial banks in the building confirmed to one of our correspondents that there would be no banking services today (Tuesday).
A food vendor expressed doubts on whether to open for business as most of her customers would be shut out of the premises.
The National Assembly began beefing up security on Monday ahead of the President’s visit.
As part of the security measures, the management of the National Assembly advised all members of staff, who had no scheduled assignment relating to the budget presentation, to stay away from the premises.
The Director of Information and Publications, National Assembly, Mr. Dibal Ishaku, told The PUNCH that a circular had already been sent out to that effect.
“There is a circular that was issued. It’s even on our notice boards and the content is self-explanatory,” he stated.
The Police and Department of State Services operatives were also seen making security arrangements on Monday at the premises.