The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the National Assembly is making every effort to restore the national budget to a normal execution period from January to December.
The Speaker continued, that the Constitution of 1999 stipulates that, unless otherwise stipulated in the National Assembly, the expenditure of the state must operate from January to December, if there are clear grounds.
Gbajabiamila said that a plan that would have a “depressing impact on the economy” from another time than January until December, when he opened a 2-day public hearing in conjunction with the 2020 budget organized by the Joint Senate and the House Committee on Appropriation, on Wednesday.
“Many people have asked me what’s the big deal about January to December budget cycle? Why are we so pressed on returning the financial year to January to December? It’s simple, the constitution says so. A lot of people are not aware of it. It’s stipulated in the constitution that ‘the financial year shall be January to December or any other time as prescribed by the National Assembly.’
“Going by the language of the constitution, it means that what it’s exactly saying is that, yes it has to be January to December, but that at any other time, maybe there’s a reason why you’re unable to. But in the main, what is expected is that it’s from January to December.
“This allows for proper timing, proper implementation as opposed to what has obtained for some time when the budget is passed going to the second quarter of the year. This has its own psychological impact. It has a way of depressing even the economy itself,” the Speaker said.
The Speaker added that those were some of the anomalies that the National Assembly seeks to address, saying, “We seek to address that carrying Nigerians along.”
Gbajabiamila said the public hearing was organized to get inputs from Nigerians and the relevant stakeholders so that all parts of the country would be carried along to reflect the federal character in project allocation.
“Basically, this 2020 budget speaks for itself. It speaks clearly in English, in black and white. So, there’s no address for me to give. What we’re here to do is to basically present to the stakeholders the N10.3 trillion budget as presented by the President. It’s for the stakeholders to put this document, examine it before the legislature exercises its full authority as provided for by the constitution.
“So, what we seek to do here is to get the buy-in of all stakeholders from the Nigerian public, because I always believe that nobody is a fountain of knowledge; that even though we’re given the full authority by the constitution to appropriate, we cannot do it alone. In the House, we believe in what we call joint task: Nation Building is a Joint Task.
“This is the first exercise that we will be doing because the budget of any country represents the blueprint of its economy and the direction it’s going to take. It’s the basis upon which everything else is built. For that reason, we thought it proper to hold this joint public hearing.
“What’s the objective? We’re seeking an outcome at the end of this exercise, an outcome that will reflect the true federal character of Nigeria. No lopsidedness. Everybody has an input: North, South, East, West for all stakeholders. So, we’re here to listen; we’re here to take inputs, and at the end of the day, we will exercise our own constitutional authority and powers given to us.
“I must commend the Executive. This is probably the earliest that we had the budget presented to the National Assembly in a long time. We stressed on this, the Senate President and myself when we came into office. We’re glad that the budget was presented in early October.
“As a matter of fact, I know that president sought to present this budget towards the end of September, but for exigencies, he could not. Be that as it may, it has come very early, and it is now for us to work on it.