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Saturday, 29 April 2017

We’ll pass 2017 budget next week – Senate

                                    
   Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawal, has given the assurance that the Upper Chamber would pass the N7.2 trillion 2017 budget and present same to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent by next week.
This is just as the Nayional Economic Council, NEC, has resolved to set up a panel to probe states’ Ecological Fund.


      Lawal, who briefed State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with the President, said the trauma suffered by the Senate Appropriation Committee Chairman,Danjuma Goje, after the raid of his house by the Police, slowed down the process of the budget passage.
There have been apprehensions over the report that the recent raid on Goje’s house has led to the loss of certain critical documents in a laptop taken away by the security officials.

  Asked when the nation’s budget would be ready, he said “There is nothing to worry about. The NASS had intended to pass the budget in March but because some of the parameters that we had little or no control over, we couldn’t pass it in March.
“It was our desire and design to pass it within this month of April but somehow something happened and all of you here know what happened.
“One of our colleagues, the chairman Senate Committee on a Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, was raided by the police after a whistle blower gave information and when part of those documents that were taken, it was reported part of the budget papers were also included.
“And other things that happened, essentially the trauma that the chairman had to go through, affected the process of budgeting that we had been trying to do.”
He continued “When we went on Easter break, our members on Senate committee on Appropriation, including that of the House, did not go on recess.
“They stayed back because that was the arrangement. By the time we returned, that was Tuesday, they should lay down the report on the budget but unfortunately that wasn’t possible because of what happened but the good news is that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we catch up the lost time.
I am thinking that by next week by the grace of God we should be able to finish our own work and pass the budget to Mr President to sign.”

On his mission in the State House, Lawal said he came to interact with the President being the official link between Buhari and the Senate.
He explained that being the Leader of the Senate, his mandate include presenting Executive bills and lobby of his colleagues for their passage.
.Briefing States House Correspondents after the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, said “Natural resource funds balanced as at 31 March 2017 was N70.9 billion. Ecological balance as at that date was N33.6 billion. States and Local governments now keep their share of resource and ecological funds for use as the need arises in their respective jurisdictions.
Council decided that an audit of ecological funds be carried out. Adhoc committee comprising of Oyo, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue and Ministers of Finance and Environments have been set up to do the audit and come up with recommendations on how all the funds shall be managed.”
Asked why the Council resolved to probe the Ecological Fund, he said “The actual word isn’t to audit it but to re-establish that the balance is the correct balance because it’s been standing like that for a couple of months. We will address that and the committee will brief NEC at the next meeting.”
He added that Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, told the Council that the balance in the Excess Crude acct as at April 26, 2017 stands at 2.2billion USD.
He stated further that the Operation of the Efficiency Unit under federal ministry of finance have been able to save the federal government a whopping sum of N17 billion since it was established and urged the governors to take a cue from this and establish same in their states.
Again, he added that “There was also updates on meningitis. The Minister of Health made a presentation to the council on the updates of meningitis outbreak as follows: That there have been 9646 suspected cases of meningitis affecting 6 States in the country, namely: Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi and Kano. As at April 25, 2017, about 767 deaths had occurred representing 9 percent of the infested population.
Speaking, Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong decried the non release of the second tranche of thefund to governors, saying that . the Paris Club refund should not be regarded as a favour from the Federal Government to states.
Lalong said criticisms against the governors were coming mainly from opposition politicians who are jealous of their achievements especially in their payment of outstanding workers salaries in the states.
According to him, what borders the governors now was the judicious use of the Paris Club Fund when eventually released.
Asked whether the government was withholding the second tranche of the Paris Fund because most governors did not use the first tranche to pay outstanding salaries, the Plateau state governor said “Talking about salaries and the Paris Club, I don’t think those were really the reasons given to the governors for the delays in payment of the Paris Club.
“We understand the President has approved the payment of the Paris Club. The first tranche came. We are waiting for the second tranche before the President went out for medical treatment.
“What we are complaining is the delay that we have not received the second tranche after the application. Let it not be seen as if the Paris Club is a favour done to state. These are money belonging to states.
“I don’t think that is the reason. For us governors, what we want is the judicious use of the Paris Club as we did for the bailout funds.”

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