Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday promised a quick passage of the 2016 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Saraki said this at a joint session of the House shortly before President Buhari presented a budget proposal of N6.08 trillion to the Assembly.
“Mr. President, the National Assembly is conscious of the yearning of Nigerians for quick delivery of democracy dividends. The National Assembly has a critical role to play and we recognise this role.
“On the budget we are willing and ready to provide the scrutiny necessary to pass only a budget that can be implemented comprehensively to the letter.
“We are ready to move swiftly and speedily to pass the 2016 Appropriation Bill. The swift passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper already points to our commitment and resolve towards this.
“I would like to use this opportunity to thank all my colleagues in the Senate and the House for their steadfastness and patriotism in this area. We will apply same but in the light of the great importance of this document we will not short-circuit scrutiny on the altar of expediency,” the Senate President said.
Saraki noted that the National Assembly is “acutely” aware of the challenges faced by the country today as a nation both in terms of the economy and security.
He further noted that the price of oil is at a seven-year low and that this was impacting negatively on government revenue.
“This notwithstanding,” he said, “in order to meet the aspirations of Nigerians across all works of life, we expect that the budget must de-emphasis recurrent expenditure and prioritise the upgrade of infrastructure in order to achieve economic recovery and generate employment for our teeming population.
“The 2016 budget must also be bold and pragmatic in providing transparent incentives and conducive environment that will prime private sector-led development, encourage local production and promote made-in Nigeria goods.
“I acknowledge that the task of implementing the budget is primarily that of the Executive. But our recent experience has shown that even with the best of intentions, too much discretionary powers over budget matters are inimical to accountability.
“It is also true that impunity and corruption thrive best when the democratic safeguards for checks and balances collapse and accountability institutions abdicate their responsibilities. In this regard, the eighth National Assembly intends to discharge our oversight responsibilities fully.
“I, therefore, want to implore Your Excellency to support us in this important task by ensuring that members of your government promptly respond to invitations for clarifications when they are required to do so by the National Assembly.
“Mr. President, if only half of the unfolding allegations regarding financial misappropriation under the previous administration are true, they would already be sufficient evidence of the dangers that we face when public officials treat accountability institutions with disdain and oversight activities with irritation.
“I am confident that your avowed commitment to the rule of law and accountability would have no accommodation for such behavior. On our own side, we want to assure you that we shall only pursue that which is provided for by the laws and strictly within the ambits of the law.”
He told President Buhari that the National Assembly fully supported his administration with the ultimate aim to make the country and its citizens proud especially with the knowledge that the National Assembly is essential not only to legislative progress, but also for the executive arm of government to function effectively.
“I, therefore, invite Mr. President to take advantage of this relationship, which we have not had for a couple of years, to push through some of the necessary reforms that would promote our economy.
“It is in this light that the National Assembly is also prioritising the passage of laws that further enhances our business environment and promote accountability in governance.
“Let me assure you Mr. President, that with the eighth National Assembly you have got a partner, an ally to help you steer the ship of State in the right direction for growth, transparency, accountability, equal opportunities, inclusion and fairness.
“We will stand by you and work with you to see Nigeria become the pride of all Nigerians home and abroad and earn the respect it deserves in the global arena,” Saraki told President Buhari.
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