President Muhammadu Buhari last night met leaders of the National Assembly ahead of the presentation of the 2018 budget proposals to the lawmakers.
The president earlier planned to host a dinner for the principal officers, but the lawmakers turned back from the Pilot Gate of the Presidential Villa in anger after security men insisted on subjecting them to individual screening.
The dinner was scheduled to hold at 8:30 pm inside the new Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other top officials of the Presidency.
Sources told Daily Trust that the dinner was meant to lobby the lawmakers.
The lawmakers numbering 20 who were conveyed in a white coastal bus refused to alight for the screening.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara later met with President Buhari at his official residence.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, told our correspondent that Buhari apologized to Saraki and Dogara.
Shehu said the president also promised to investigate the incident and sanction those involved.
A source at the National Assembly said the trouble started when the principal officer arrived at the Villa.
“But when they got to the Villa, the Chief Security Officer insisted on a security search on the lawmakers, except Saraki and Dogara. The lawmakers faulted it and left the Villa angrily. They returned to the Senate President’s residence,” the source said.
The source added that immediately after the lawmakers left the Villa, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari traced them to the residence of Saraki where he was said to have apologized.
“The lawmakers, however, insisted that they will not return to the Villa. They resolved that the Senate president should go for the meeting as a respect for President Buhari,” he said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives expressed shock that leaders of the National Assembly would be subjected to any security checks at the Villa.
Spokesman of the House, Abdulrazak Namdas, said the development was strange to the National Assembly leadership.
“There’s need for mutual respect for the three arms of government, especially because the leaders of the National Assembly were there on the invitation of the president."
“It’ll be unfair to subject them to serious security search as if they’re not presiding officers of the National Assembly. These people were on a bus, so it’s strange. We cannot do that to the president and ministers when they’re coming to the National Assembly for official work."
“Our leaders just turned back because it’s strange. When they were there on the invitation of the president and then you subjected them to that kind of thing? It was very strange. We feel it’s not appropriate,” he added.
A presidency source told Daily Trust that the presentation of the 2018 budget proposal to the National Assembly would be delayed till next month.
The source said the presidency would make an announcement next week on the date for the budget presentation before a joint session of the National Assembly.
It was gathered that the presidency had set for itself up to the end of this month to present the budget proposal to the federal legislature, but that is no longer feasible.
“Budget presentation to them (National Assembly) will be delayed. An announcement will be made next Tuesday on the date for the presentation. You know there’s a lot of work to do, so it’s not something that we’ll rush,” the source said.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, who briefed State House correspondents after the cabinet meeting chaired by President Buhari, refused to give the details of the draft budget approved.
“It is the President’s prerogative to submit the budget, submit the proposals and give the details. I will be operating above my brief if I do that. The constitution gives that authority to the president,” Udoma said.
The minister reassured that the executive would fulfill its promise of getting the budget proposal ready in October.
“We are liaising with the National Assembly because they have to approve the date for the president to come and address them to submit the budget."
“Before now, we used to submit in December but now the budget is ready in October so there is a very big difference,” Udoma said.
The Ministry of Budget and National Planning also said it is optimistic 2018 budget will run a January-December cycle.
The deputy director of Press Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Ben Goong, disclosed this to Daily Trust yesterday in an interview.
He said the presidency, the ministries, and leadership of the National Assembly were determined to return Nigeria to the January-December budget cycle.
He noted that the performance of last year’s budget will only be ascertained after the monitoring and evaluation of the budget which the ministry, through the minister of state for Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed, is in charge of.
“She (the minister) is not in the country, but by the time she comes back we will start working on that and can give you exactly what the performance is,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, told State House correspondents that N450 billion has so far been released for the execution of capital projects contained in the 2017 Appropriation Act, christened “Budget of Recovery and Growth.”
The 2017 budget has a total expenditure of N7.44 trillion out of which N2.36 trillion is from capital expenditure, N2.99 trillion for non-debt recurrent spending, and N1.66 trillion for debt servicing.
The budget was presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 14, 2016; passed by the legislators on May 11, 2017, and signed into law by the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on June 12, 2017.
Also yesterday, the FEC approved a memo for the establishment of the Road Trust Fund structure.
Adeosun said the structure is a Public-Private Partnership initiative that would allow the private sector to get involved in road construction in exchange for tax credits.
The minister noted that the deficit in road construction was so large that there was a need to mobilize additional funding sources.
She said this would complement government’s budgetary allocations to roads, increase funds available for road development and accelerates road provision across the nation, reduce pressure on the federal budget by allowing private engagement and create a platform for collaboration among private sector players as well as between private sector and government.
According to her, “Private sector participation is being incentivized through a Tax Credit Scheme that enables all participating companies to claim tax relief based on the amount of capital contribution (on a pro-rata basis).We’ve already consulted with the private sector in the development of the RTF and some companies have already identified roads they wish to reconstruct and are organizing their funding. "
“However, this scheme is designed such that Financial Intermediaries will be promoting Road Trust Fund projects and soliciting commitments from interested companies.”