By Kingsley Okoye
Abuja, Sept. 29, 2020 President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday at plenar said that the National Assembly will next week receive the 2021 budget estimate from the executive arm of government.
Lawan made the disclosure in his welcome speech as the Senate resumed plenary after observing 69 days of recess which be began on July 23.
Lawan said the presentation of the 2021 budget estimates was informed by the engagement of the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning with Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
He said that the engagement by the groups was on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTF/FSP).
He said that the committees during the recess had interacted with no fewer than 300 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), over issues of revenue generation and remittances to the Federal Government.
He said that the committee would present its report for the consideration of Senate.
“This is a precursor to the presentation of the 2021 Budget Estimates by the Executive Arm of Government soon.
“I am aware that the Executive will be presenting the 2021 Budget Estimates by next week.”
He also revealed that the Senate had also received the draft of the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), from the executive.
Lawan said that the annual recess, unlike the previous ones, was observed in the period of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
He noted that all the lawmarkers were largely involved in different undertakings to provide interventions and reliefs for the myriad of challenges occassioned by the pandemic in their various senatorial districts.
“I commend us all for being responsive.
“You will recall that all distinguished Senators have donated 50 per cent of their salaries to the national efforts at fighting the pandemic for the entire period of the COVID-19 Pandemic in our country.
“I must also commend us all for this show of compassion and empathy.
“The pandemic is still very much with us.
“We, therefore, need to continue to work with the health authorities in the education, enlightenment and sensitisation of our people to the need to observe the protocols established by the Presidential Task Force (PTF), and other relevant authorities.”
Lawan also commended the PTF on COVID -19 and health workers at all levels of government for the great job they were doing since the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria.
He also commended the various committees for undertaking oversights during the recess.
“These oversights are necessary activities of this senate to ensure that the executive implements government programmes and projects with efficiency and effectiveness.
He said that the senate needed to pay particular attention to the implementation of the Federal Government Economic Sustainability Plan.
“This strategic Plan is an essential means of revamping our economy, as it provides interventions in the Mass Agricultural Programme, Infrastructure, Mass Housing Programme, Investments in Healthcare Infrastructure, amongst others.
“We were confronted with an over 14 billion dollars revenue gap and the grim reality of an unwholesome overdependence on oil.
“We cannot overemphasise the need to focus on other important sectors such as Agriculture, Solid Minerals, Steel Development and manufacturing with a view to diversifying our economy.
“We need to work with relevant stakeholders to prevent our economy from going into a recession, stimulate the economy, save and create more jobs through a sustainable multiplier effect.”
He said that the senate would provide a one month window for Budget defence by MDAs as in the 2020 appropriation.
He said that the month of October would be dedicated for the exercise, while subsequent months of November and December would be dedicated to the internal processing of the Budget by the National Assembly.
“The various MDAs are, therefore, advised to ensure that they avail themselves of the opportunity of the Budget defence window to appear with all the relevant and necessary information to defend their budget estimates.”
Lawan also said the Electoral Reform Amendment Bills would be treated with dispatch.
“We must ensure that we make amendments that will enhance free, fair, transparent and credible elections in our country.
He also said that there was need to continuously seek enduring measures to arrest the insecurity situation in the country.
“In this regard, the senate will continue to provide the necessary legislative interventions at all times to improve the situation.
“There can never be any more important government function than the protection of lives and property of its citizens.”
He said that the senate had recorded some achievements in the preceding year.
The achievements, according to him, can be attributed to the bi-partisanship, patriotism, unity of purpose and senate commitment to the Nigerian people.
“I am sure we are all determined to continue on this path of serving our people,” Lawan said.