But for the tactical prowess of the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, The Nigerian House of representatives could have degenerated to a shouting arena as the issue of the 2014 Budget came up for debate. Tuesday’s plenary progressed normally until Tambuwal asked the Majority Leader, Mrs. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, to lead the debate on the general principles of the N4.6tn budget.
Trouble started when a point of order raised by Hon. Emmanuel Jime (APC, Benue) led to the deferment of further consideration of the bill in the House of Reps. Jime argued that discussing the bill would breach the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), which stipulate that the budget must be presented to the House in full and not in summary as was done by Okonjo-Iweala.
Jime noted that the budget estimates, as presented before the House, breached Section 21 (I,II,III) of the Fiscal Responsibly Act, 2007. According to him, the Act provides that the government corporations listed under Section 21 “shall not later than six months from the commencement of this Act, submit the estimates of expenditure for the next three years” to the National Assembly.
He added that the law required the Minister of Finance to “cause” and attach the estimates of the corporations to the national budget presented to the National Assembly. He named the listed corporations as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Ports Authority and “21 other agencies of government.”
The lawmaker argued that, having gone through the budget estimates, he found out that the estimates of the corporations were not attached as required by law. Rather, he said the budget merely had “the summary and abridged versions” of the budgets of the corporations.
Jime added that, proceeding to debate the budget in view of what he considered to be a violation of the law would not be in the interest of the country. He told his colleagues that as legislators, they were called to uphold the provisions of the law at all times. “The pattern of presenting this budget has breached our laws; the House should not allow itself to do the wrong thing because we want to satisfy the comfort of the moment,” he added.
His statement was attacked by some PDP members, who did not like his line of argument and they started shouting at him to sit down. “Point of order”, “point of order, Mr. Speaker”, Mr. Nedo Karibi from Bayelsa State, shouted. Several other PDP members joined him in shouting at Jime to sit down.
The bill however passed its second reading on the floor of the Nigerian Senate. The bill had the full support of All Progressives Congress (APC) senators, whose party has directed to block all executive bills. With the bill scaling the second reading, it was referred to the Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance for further consideration. The committee has three weeks to conclude its assignment and report back to the Senate for final passage.