Buhari yet to forward 2020 budget, N5m palliative request to N/Assembly

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The Senate has said the Executive is yet to forward to it the 2020 budget amendment bill as well as the request for N500 billion COVID-19 Intervention Fund expected to serve as palliatives to the citizenry in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The upper chamber also explained that the N850 billion loan approved for the Executive on Tuesday was not a fresh loan as it was already captured in the 2020 budget approved by the National Assembly last November.

The new Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, told THISDAY yesterday evening that several weeks after the Executive hinted that it was going to present to the Assembly an amendment Bill to the 2020 budget due to the dwindling oil revenue, the legislative body was yet to receive the bill.

He stated that the proposed N500 billion COVID-19 Intervention Fund has also not been brought before the National Assembly for approval.

His words: “In the course of the National Assembly break, we engaged officials of the Presidency including ministers who promised that due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the international price of oil, the government would review the budget and come up with a bill that would reduce the number of capital projects to be executed in 2020 by 20 per cent. As we speak, the proposed adjusted budget Bill is not yet before the Assembly.

“Also recall that the N500 billion stimulus is still with the Executive arm. It has not been sent to the legislative arm. So, the report of the committee headed by the Vice President that recommended the stimulus as well as a formal request for approval is not yet before the National Assembly.”

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The spokesman gave an assurance, saying “the National Assembly is expecting both the stimulus package and the amended budget from the Executive and I can assure you that once we get the bill and request they will be treated accordingly”.

Also yesterday, Basiru, in a statement, said no fresh N850 billion loan was approved by the Senate on Tuesday for the Executive.

According to him, the resolution passed by the Senate was an amendment to the earlier resolution as to the source of the initial N850 billion loan that had been approved to be part of what should be used to fund the 2020 Appropriation Act.

He said: “You will recall that the Senate had actually approved the loan of N850 billion but to be sourced from external sources.

“However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the challenge in the international oil market with the attendant challenges of raising the approved loan externally, the President requested that the approved loan should rather be raised through the domestic capital market.

“It was the above request on the sourcing of the earlier approved external borrowing of N850 billion from domestic capital market that was approved by the Senate,” the spokesman stated.

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