Budget 2019: NASS leadership moves to avert constitutional crisis

NASS Leeader, Saraki

Barely 55 days to the end of current National Assembly’s tenure, it has begun desperate moves to avert a constitutional crisis that may befall the 2019 Budget Bill if it is not passed into law.

Conscious of the limited time the current National Assembly has to properly consider, process and pass the N8.83tr 2019 Appropriations Bill, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, had severally given deadlines to all committees involved in the process to submit reports on the budget document to no avail.

Even as the two chambers of the National Assembly are scheduled to proceed on a two-week Easter holiday, there is no indication that the Appropriation Committee could submit a report on the Budget Bill for consideration and approval before the Easter break.

This setback could drag approval of the budget proposal till May, when lawmakers will resume.

Moreover, the constitution is clear on the fact that the President be given a minimum of 30 days within which to study, assent or reject any Bill passed by the National Assembly.

Concerned lawmakers have expressed fear that the budget Bill could suffer serious constitutional crisis, if it is not passed and transmitted to the President early enough.

The situation becomes trickier, in view of the provisions of the Standing Rules of both chambers of the National Assembly, which state that any Bill that fails to be passed within the tenure of a particular National Assembly dies automatically.

Last Thursday, the Senate failed to get any report from its Appropriation Committee upon expiration of another deadline.

The Senate leadership had, last week, expressed desire to pass the 2019 Appropriations Bill before proceeding on Easter holiday, but there are fears that the committees might not be ready with their reports.

Last Tuesday, Saraki gave the sub-committees Wednesday deadline to submit their reports to the Appropriations Committee, which was in turn mandated to submit the budget report by last Thursday for the approval of the budget by April 16.

But at resumption of plenary on Thursday, the budget item was not listed on Senate Order Paper.

A member of the Appropriation Committee said sub-committees were still submitting their reports, even as he expressed doubt on passage of the budget before Easter.

The lawmaker disclosed that about 35 out of the 61 sub-committees had submitted their reports, adding that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were still defending their budgets before sub-committees.

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