The House of Representatives Wednesday passed the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) through second reading after a contentious debate.
The document was referred to the Committees on Finance, Appropriation, National Planning and Economic Development, Legislative Budget and Research and Aids, Loans and Debt Management to scrutinize and make recommendations to the House.
The passage of the document paved the way to begin consideration of the 2018 budget on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.
Recall that President Muhamadu Buhari on Tuesday, 17th October, 2017 had forwarded a request to the Green Chamber for the approval of the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Some of the key assumptions in the document is the production of crude oil at 2.3million barrels per day, oil price benchmark at $45 per barrel, while exchange rate is pegged at N305/$1 and GDP growth rate at 3.5 percent (revised)
However the debate experienced hiccups as members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in the House insisted that it is procedurally wrong to debate the MTEF against the backdrop of the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).
Members like Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers) Nnena Elendu- Ukeje ( PDP Abia), Daniel Renejue ( PDP Delta), Yakubu Barde ( PDP Kaduna) , Dan Asuquo ( PDP Cross River) were of the opinion that a bad precedence would be set if the House goes ahead to debate the MTEF/ FSP as it did not come three months before the budget as required by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Hardly had the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila commenced the presentation of his argument on the document than Hon. Betty Apiafi ( PDP Rivers) took the floor through a point of order.
According to her, it was essential to do the right thing lest Nigerians misconstrue the motives of the legislature. She said the MTEF should precede the consideration of the budget and is supposed to be accompanied with macro- economic framework for the next three years.
She wondered how the House would make necessary adjustments since that have allowed the executive to err procedurally.
The other PDP members backed Apiafi’s position and held their ground until the House Leader made an appeal to them to allow the passage.
Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun also made several interventions by appealing to members to allow the document pass. According to him, the House still has the power to change the assumptions to reflect the realities of the time and the wishes of the people.
He said: “The MTEF is a paper that contains key assumptions open to debate, including benchmark, deficit, revenue projections…it is not cast in stone. Wether it is four months or now, no process has been circumvented.”
Gbajabiamila while moving for the consideration of the document said:” Section 11(2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 provides that the Medium Term Expenditure Expenditure Framework ( MTEF) shall be considered for approval with such modifications, if any, as the National Assembly finds appropriate by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly.”
He said Section 11(3) of the same Act, “provides that the MTEF shall contain, among other things, a macro- economic framework setting out the macro-economic projections for the next three financial years, the underlying assumptions for these projections and an evaluation and analysis of the macro- economic projections for the preceding three financial years.”
Lasun however said the leadership of the National Assembly has been in a series of meetings with the Executive in a bid to ensure the expeditious passage of the .2018 budget.
He revealed that the two arms of government had met on Monday, Tuesday and would possibly meet today Wednesday to smoothen grounds for a seamless passage of the appropriation bill.