Again, Reps suspend 2019 budget debate


The plenary at the House of Representatives on Tuesday lasted for about one hour and was attended by fewer than 45 members, with more than half of them arriving late.
But as no lawmaker raised an issue against the non-formation of quorum, the chamber went on with the session.
The Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, was absent; the Deputy Speaker, Mr Yusuf Lasun, presided. The Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, walked in about 30 minutes after the session had started.
Within the hour that the plenary lasted, the House received four reports from various committees, passed six bills for third reading, adopted four motions, and considered four committee reports.
The House, however, stood down, consideration of the 2019 Appropriation Bill till Wednesday (today).
Lasun had called on Gbajabiamila to move a motion for the consideration of the budget. But Gbajabiamila prayed the House to step down consideration of the appropriation bill.
He said, “Mr Speaker, may I crave your indulgence and that of the House to step down the second reading of this bill, till tomorrow.
“I have received several appeals from members because of the importance of the budget, so that they can have 24 hours for them to go through it, to know all the details and aspects of the bill. I crave your indulgence to allow this to be stepped down till tomorrow.”
Lasun agreed with the majority leader, saying, “Of course, we are expected to be considerate. And so, we are going to give a rare opportunity of acceding to the request of stepping down the commencement of the debate till tomorrow, Wednesday, 23rd January, 2019. The commencement of the debate is stepped down accordingly.”
The deputy Speaker then asked those interested in the debate to register with the secretariat.
It was the second time the House postponed the consideration of the national budget.
The lawmakers had suspended the second reading last Thursday.
Although the bill was listed on the Order Paper of Thursday for its second reading, Dogara had stepped it down as all the lawmakers had yet to get a copy of the budget. He stated that the bill would not be considered until all members had a copy.
“We will not take the debate on the second reading of the budget until all members have copies. So, we will have to fix a new date,” he had said.
As the lawmakers plan to work on the budget, they had also yet to pass the 2019-2021 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper after two months it was transmitted to them.
Although the law stipulates that the MTEF/FSP be sent to the National Assembly for ratification by September of each year, the President Muhammadu Buhari only sent the document to the legislature on November 6, 2018, while he presented the 2019 budget on December 19, 2018.
The MTEF/FSP, which contains the economic assumptions with which the budget was to be prepared, was supposed to have been passed before the budget was presented.
In his cover letter attached to the MTEF/FSP proposal, Buhari, who stated the need to pass it before budget presentation, had urged the National Assembly to ensure the speedy passage of the document.
The Federal Executive Council had earlier in October approved the 2019-2021 MTEF/FSP, which proposed N8.73tn for the 2019 budget, N400bn lower than that of the 2018 fiscal year.
The Federal Government had also pegged the price of crude oil for the 2019 budget at $60 per barrel, the exchange rate at N305 per United States dollar, and daily crude oil production at 2.3 million barrels per day.