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Again, Senate Rejects Buhari’s MTEF Document

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The Senate on Thursday rejected the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, as well as the Fiscal Sustainability Paper, FSP, forwarded to the upper legislative chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari.

This is coming just two days after the senate rejected a proposal sent to it by the president, seeking approval to borrow $29.690 billion to enable him carryout key infrastructural projects across the country between 2016 and 2018.

While the lawmakers said the borrowing proposal lacked details, they described the MTEF and FSP documents as “empty” and not worth considering.

The documents were forwarded to the National Assembly by President Buhari on October 4ahead of the 2017 budget.

Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, was the first to raise a point of order during plenary on Thursday, citing a newspaper report which suggested that the National Assembly was to blame for the delay in the submission of the 2017 budget proposal.

According to the report, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, was quoted as saying that the suspension of debate of the MTEF/FSP had stalled the ministry’s plan to transmit the 2017 budget to the legislature.

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Ndume said it was unfortunate that the executive arm were already blaming the legislature over the avoidable delay.

The Senate majority leader said: “As the Leader of this Senate and I am responsible for presenting communications, bills from the Executive. You will recall that we received the MTEF on 30th September. Instead of submitting it according to law not later than 1st of September, that is not even the problem.

“I went through and the copies have been circulated. I talked to some experts. Even in this chamber, we have people that you can call experts. If you look at this document that they call MTEF, it is empty. And it doesn’t contain anything. If you have nothing how do you consider nothing?”

Ndume pointed out that he wrote to the budget minister as well as the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, asking for the details of the MTEF/FSP but has not gotten any response from both of them.

He said he invited both ministers to meet with the Senate on November 1 for a holistic review of the MTEF document but they failed to turn up.

The senate leader said that the legislature could not afford to begin the 2017 budget process with blame game.

He said, “We cannot afford to start the 2017 budget process with this blame game. This Senate is Nigerian Senate. We have the opposition that is co-operating with us and we have the majority in this Senate.

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“So, it is not like we are working against the government but we know what we are doing. And we should do it right.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, however said he called the budget minister, Udoma, on phone to discuss the matter and that the minister was ready to retract what he reportedly said about the MTEF and the blame on the legislature.

Similarly, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Albert Bassey, also said that he called Udoma “and he confirmed that he was quoted out of context that he will address this.”

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, assured that the Senate will consider the 2017 budget provided things were done right.

“We are ready to take the budget presentation anytime … in doing so, the executive must be reminded that everything must be done right. All arms of government must live to its responsibility. The issue of blame game should be put behind us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister of budget and national planning denied calling the bluffs of the senate.

A statement by his media aide, Akpandem James, quoted Udoma as expressing surprise at the accusation by Ndume.

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James explained that the proposed meeting between the Minister and the Senate was eventually postponed, wondering why the senate leader would say that the minister failed to turn up.

He also revealed that the newspaper that published the said report of Udoma blaming the legislature had since released a disclaimer stating that the reporter who wrote the story did not speak with the minister.

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