National Assembly To Interrupt Recess For Election Budget


The leaders of the National Assembly have agreed to reconvene before September 25 to consider and approve the budget for the 2019 general elections, Daily Trust reports.
However, it was gathered, the senators and members of the House of Representatives will only sit for a day and go back to continue with their annual recess, which they commenced on July 24.
Sources told Daily Trust yesterday that although the National Assembly leadership has agreed to reconvene for the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the 2019 elections, there is no definite date yet for reconvening.
The Senate and the House committees overseeing INEC are expected to harmonise their positions on the elections budget on Monday and present same to the appropriations committees for further action, after which both chambers could reconvene.
“There’s no definite date yet, and I don’t think it will be next week‎ because I should be in the know. All I know is that we’ve agreed to reconvene and consider the election budget. What I can’t tell you now is the actual date.
“What they want to do is to just reconvene and do everything within one day and go back for us to continue with the recess. You know the issue of impeachment is there, so nobody wants to take chances,” a source said last night.
Asked about the possibility of the two chambers having a joint sitting to consider and approve the elections fund, the source said “it is not part of our rules”.
“I don’t think that is possible. Our rules are very clear on that. We can only have a joint sitting during budget presentation. If we want to have another joint sitting outside that, then each house has to sit separately and agree on that first,” he added. The annual recess of the National Assembly is to last for at least two months. But since the lawmakers embarked on the break, ‎there have been calls for them to reconvene and approve the N189.2 billion elections budget.
INEC chairman Prof Mahmud Yakubu had told the lawmakers that activities for the elections would commence on August 15, which was eight days ago, and that the commission needed funds to be able to meet up. Following the outcry for the National Assembly to reconvene, Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps Yussuf Suleimon Lasun said penultimate week that they would reconvene on August 14, which was last week to consider the elections fund.
However, ‎it turned out that the federal legislature shelved the planned resumption, citing various reasons.
In a statement last week jointly signed by Yusuph Olaniyonu and Turaki Hassan, spokesmen of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, they said no date was fixed for reconvening.
“The leadership of the two chambers had met and agreed to reconvene to consider the proposal this week before which a meeting between the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Electoral Matters and officials of the INEC must have held on or before Monday August 13, 2018.
“The joint committees were also expected to meet with the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan request after which two reports would have been ready for presentation in the two chambers.
“However, no such meeting had taken place yet as a result of which both Senate and House of Representatives cannot reconvene as there is no report to consider.
“Until the Committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj,” they had said.
But ‎following the series of meetings of the two committees, Sen Suleiman Nazif Gamawa (PDP), who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, said at the weekend that the joint committee was ready to meet on Monday, August 27, to harmonise their positions.
During the meetings, the two committees could not conclude deliberations on the proposed elections budget due to disagreement between lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The disagreement was necessitated by the fact that while APC lawmakers supported the proposal by INEC for the whole N189.2bn to be approved at once, PDP lawmakers said the N143.512bn sent by President Muhammadu Buhari should first be approved to be followed by a balance of N45.7bn in next year’s budget.
But Gamawa had said that work on the elections budget has reached an advanced stage in line with the mandate given to them.
“Equally the Joint Committee deliberated on all key attributes of the Budget while taking into cognisance the imperative urgency for the Budget to be ready in time for the 2019 General Election hence, necessitating sacrifice and selflessness from our Distinguished and Honourable Members.
“Furthermore, it is imperative to state here explicitly that, after an audacious session with all critical stakeholders the joint Committee dissolved into executive structure and agreed to resume on 27th August, 2018, (after Sallah) to consider the Harmonized version of the Budget Report diligently.
“More so the report of the joint Committee will be made available for further and appropriate legislative action in earnest,” he said in a statement at the weekend.