2020 Budget: Gbajabiamila urges Presidency to submit MTEF, budget proposal early

...targets Jan for passage ...decries deplorable condition of NASS Complex

As the National Assembly resumes plenary sessions today, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabimila on Monday urged the presidency to make early submission of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF to the National Assembly at least by the end of the and
the 2020 budget proposal by September this year.

The Speaker who made the demands in Abuja yesterday while receiving in the audience with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha who paid him a courtesy call became necessary so as to facilitate early consideration of both documents for onward passage.

Hon Gbajabiamila explained that arrangement would help the country achieve the yearly January 1 to December 31 period of fiscal policy.

The Speaker also said that reverting to the annual fiscal ritual would be healthy for the country which in his view would also facilitate speedy dispensation of democracy dividends to the people.

This came just as the Speaker decried the deplorable condition of the National Assembly Complex, saying it was nearing total collapse.

While acknowledging that its facilities in the complex were better managed when it was under the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, the Speaker disclosed there was a plan by the administration to hand it over back to the FCT, for proper maintenance.

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Hon Gbajabiamila who spoke extensively on the need for a healthy collaboration between the three arms of government to enable them to serve the country better stated that the independence of the legislature would not be compromised under any guise.

According to him, “It is a bipartisan House as you have rightly observed. We stressed that point during our campaign. We further stressed it during the inauguration and we will continue to emphasize that bipartisan nature as we move along. It is embedded in our minds of the joint task of nation-building.

“That’s why we will become to you, when I say you, I am talking about the executive with a shopping list which will make our work easier. Your office is very critical to us being able to actualize the legislative agenda we have set for ourselves.

“The list will include things like Library, a world-class library. Much as we pride ourselves as the biggest country in Africa, this national assembly does not have a library that you call a library. It is unfortunate that we have to say it. What we have is akin to shade at the back. It is like a bookstore.

“These are the tools of our trade. The things we need to have a robust legislature. And so, we will be needing your intervention in that regard. We will be needing to make the House IT complaint.

“You may be amazed that the National Assembly such as this, to get access to the internet is actually a problem. And how do you work if you don’t have these things at your fingertips?

“But I am glad to announce that even by tomorrow (today)as we resume sitting, one of our reforms will already be in place. The chambers are more or less 80% IT compliant. We have a new set of equipment that allows easy face recognition and electronic registration or internet server as they say

“This was done on our own in the last 2 to 3 weeks because they were promises we made and we must fulfill.

“So, we will need you to play your role in making this work. For me and many of us, the independence of the legislature is very key and absolutely important to us.

” But people seem to forget is that there is independence and also the interdependence of all three arms of government. You need me and I need. It’s gonna be a symbiotic relationship between all three arms of government. No one is an island. And the three of us need to work together for the good of the people who we seek to govern.

“So for us, this is a welcome development that you have come here today. We will handover the maintenance of this building to the FCT because as it is today, the building is almost collapsing. Maintenance is at the zero levels. We believe that it should be handed over to the FCT where it will a lot easier.

“Again, part of the reforms which we want to achieve is; I will want a situation where before we go on a long break in the next week, maybe three weeks, I would want a situation where the MTEF will be submitted to this House so that we can pass it before going. And then, when we come back in September, maybe by the end of September, we the budget before us because by finance laws, the budget is based in the MTEF.

“The MTEF needs to be submitted. We don’t want to at the end of the day, the budget is brought in December. So, this is the timetable that we have set. One, the MTEF to be submitted. Two, we work on it and go on our long break and then come back.

“At the end of September, present the budget to us. And what does that do? It leaves us with three months to pass the budget. And what does that do? It brings us back to that circle of January to December. And by January 1, we pass the budget as envisaged in the constitution. We want you to help us with this process.

“We want to streamline the budget process because the input of the members cannot be negotiated. So, if that input can come before the presentation of the budget, fine. So that when the budget comes, we just need little things here and there but not to rewrite a whole budget because we have not been carried along from onset. I think those are the issues.”

The Speaker also disclosed that the House would create a Committee on Ecology to tackle issues arising from the environments.

“We are creating a committing on the ecological funds for the first time”, Gbajabiamila said.

Earlier, the SGF, Mustapha who was accompanied to the House by some of his Permanent Secretaries and the Presidential aide on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang congratulated the Speaker on his election, hailing the bipartisan decision of the members that brought the new leadership to office.

Mustapha said he was in the House to solicit for the cooperation and collaboration of the leadership and members of the House to enable the present government to entrench good governance.

According to him, ” this is a courtesy call and it is intended to continue to pursue our working together for the good of Nigerians. The legislature is a very important arm because you have been invested with the power to make laws and legislate on all matters that are brought before you.

“We bring estimates but the power of appropriation is vested in the national assembly. Our relationship is symbiotic, mutually beneficial if we work together. We have come to continue to extend the hands of fellowship to the National Assembly.

The bipartisan approach will continue to help you and I am confident, knowing the calibers of the people.

“We want to assure you that the executive will be willing to partner with you to provide the benefits of democracy to our people”, he said.

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