The Senate has dismissed media reports that it was deliberately frustrating the submission of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The executive arm of the Federal Government requires Senates approval of both the MTEF and FSP as prerequisite for the submission the 2017 budget.
Passage of the MTEF and FSP had since November 22, 2016, suffered several setbacks in the National Assembly.
It will be recalled that an unnamed Presidency official said on Monday that the National Assembly is frustrating the submission of the 2017 Appropriation Bill, describing the previous rejection of the MTEF and FSP by the lawmakers as “frivolous”.
In a statement by its spokesman, Sen. Aliyu Abdullahi, the Red Chamber also denied allegations that the non-implementation of constituency projects was the reason the National Assembly was frustrating the presentation.
The statement noted that there was no mention of constituency projects, throughout the debate on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), adding that the discussions were focused solely on the budget document.
The statement reads: “The attention of the National Assembly has been drawn to a misleading, malicious and false report that the National Assembly is frustrating the submission of the 2017 Appropriation Bill because of the contention over the refusal of the presidency to approve the constituency project of the lawmakers.
“The said story quoted an unnamed presidency official as its source. As much as the National Assembly does not respond to speculations in the media, it however wishes to state as follows:
“The said news item is completely false. The Senate on November 22, 2016, at the plenary session deliberated on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) and passed it on to its legislative committees for necessary legislative actions and recommendations.
“Throughout the debate at the plenary, no mention was made of the constituency projects of the lawmakers as it was not the subject of debate. Rather, the senators took time to comment on the observed deficiencies of the MTEF/FSP document before the National Assembly.
“The senators observed the unrealistic aspect of the document pointing out that it was not in tune with realities on ground. For instance, the Senators that spoke complained against the crude oil benchmark projection and that expectation that over two million barrels of crude oil per day is being projected without taking into cognisance the militancy in the Niger Delta region.
“The Senate at the plenary was alarmed on the naira projection to the US dollar, which was not in tandem with the current Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) projection of N350 to a US dollar, whereas the MTEF/FSP projected N290 to a US dollar.
“The senators also complained against the projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and projected growth in 2017 and other issues. In none of these were the issue of constituency projects mentioned. “It therefore beats the imagination where THISDAY and the so-called Presidency official got their information from. It must be a product of disinformation and an attempt to blackmail the the National Assembly.
“For the records, the Senate has discussed and passed the MTEF/FSP and subsequently referred it to the relevant Senate committee and the committee will come up with its recommendations as soon as possible,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, in a twist of events the Presidency denied the Senate was frustrating the the presentation of the 2017 budget, stating that the “National Assembly is working with the presidency on the budget”.
Speaking to THISDAY on Monday evening, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, explained that the Minister of Budget and National Planning, the Minister of Finance and other relevant individuals were working hard on preparation for presentation of the 2017 budget.
He said: “The National Assembly is working with the presidency on the budget and the MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper had been presented and the Senate had committed it to the Committees on Finance and National Planning and the committees are working on it.
“There was no time that the National Assembly had been accused of frustrating the presentation of the budget as l had seen on the front page of the newspaper. I want to say that to the best of our knowledge, the presidency is not in any way accusing the National Assembly of frustrating the presentation of the budget.”
“The presidency had submitted the MTEF and the Senate debated extensively on it and had passed it to the Committee on Finance and National Planning. The Minister of Budget and National Planning, the Minister of Finance and the Director-General, Budget Office and other officers are working on what needs to be done on the presentation of the budget and the officers are collaborating with the committees of the National Assembly.
“There is no action of the officers of the National Assembly that can be termed to be frustrating the presidency. So, l want everybody to know that there is no feud between the presidency and the National Assembly. Everybody is doing its job. We have respect and honour for the legislature,” he added.