The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the National Assembly would “ensure exhaustive consideration” of the 2022 budget that President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the federal legislature on Thursday.
The Speaker, who said the National Assembly was committed to the timely passage of the Appropriation Bill as it did in the last two years, noted that the next two to three months will be for the strictest scrutiny of the budget estimates and emphasized that lawmakers would hold government agencies accountable for the previously appropriated funds.
In a remark at the budget presentation before a joint session of the National Assembly, Mr Gbajabiamila recalled that upon inauguration, the 9th Assembly committed itself to pursue long-awaited and critical reforms to the appropriations process for better delivery on the promise of national development.
“Over the last two budget cycles, by the joint effort of the executive and legislature, we have made significant progress in this regard and achieved reforms that will stand the test of time and count in our favour,” he noted.
Mr Gbajabiamila added that while working to deliver the previous budgets, the lawmakers worked “through the day and night, forgoing all other considerations in a joint effort to deliver a national budget that meets the highest expectations of the Nigerian people.
“Therefore, I am confident that the National Assembly will give this Appropriation Bill the prompt consideration it demands.
“However, let me use this opportunity to say to the heads of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria that the determination of the National Assembly to deliver a timely budget will not derogate from our responsibility to ensure exhaustive consideration of the Bill.
“We will demand a thorough accounting for the funds previously appropriated, disbursed and expended. And we will take steps to hold to account those who fail to provide the records we need to make informed decisions on the Appropriation Bill. This is the responsibility of the National Assembly, and we will live up to it.”
The speaker noted that the reforms introduced by the 9th Assembly in the appropriations process, “including establishing a January to December budget cycle, improving oversight procedures, and ensuring greater fidelity to the letter and spirit of our appropriation laws, have led to measurable improvements in public infrastructure, access to education and housing, healthcare and transportation, amongst others.
“These improvements, which have had a positive impact on the lives of millions of Nigerians across the country, inspire us to do more.”
He said innovations in technology, the changing nature of global trade, the challenges of cross-border insecurity and the increasing interdependence of nations have continued to “present challenges we must overcome and opportunities we must embrace.”
As legislators and leaders in government, the speaker said, “we have a continued obligation to ensure that in considering this Appropriation Bill, we make all deliberate efforts to ensure that we continue to make critical investments in education and healthcare, public infrastructure and national security.
“Through these investments, we can hope to build an economy that provides enough well-paying jobs for our young population so that we can, in our lifetime, end endemic poverty in our country and eradicate the social ills that derive therefrom.”
The speaker said the House has, in the last one year, passed several important resolutions relating to healthcare, primary education and national security that require actual funding.
“Where these resolutions have not been included in the Appropriation Bill, the House will work with the Senate and with the Executive to see to it that the final version of this Appropriation Bill includes necessary allocations to implement these resolutions and give full effect to the best wishes of the House.”
Mr Gbajabiamila thanked President Buhari for coming to present the budget estimates personally as usual, and commended the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the Budget Office, Honourable Ministers and all those who contributed to drafting the Appropriation Bill.
“The National Assembly will build on your efforts. Together, we will deliver an Appropriation Act that provides real solutions to national problems, unlocks economic potential, secures our country and brings a future we can all look forward to and be proud of.”
He also paid glowing tributes to senators and members of the House for their “unmatched determination to delivering the annual budget on time, in line with our commitment to a January to December budget cycle.”