Reconsideration of the N10.5 trillion 2020 budget now slashed to N9 trillion by the executive arm of government and approval of N500billion it proposed as intervention fund to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, are in focus as both Chambers of the National Assembly resume plenary sessions Tuesday, after five weeks of hurried recess.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had on Tuesday March 24, 2020, hurriedly adjourned plenary for two weeks against possible outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), within the premises of the National Assembly and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
But both the first and second phases of lockdowns carried out in FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, as directed by President Muhamnadu Buhari in Nationwide broadcasts made on Sunday March 29, 2020 and Monday, April 13, 2020, prevented them from resuming on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 as earlier planned.
However in separate statements issued by Clerks of both Chambers on Sunday and Monday in Abuja, the federal lawmakers are expected in their respective hallowed chambers by 10:00am on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, for urgent consideration and approval of budgetary proposals and intervention fund requested for, by the executive.
Specifically, the statement issued to that effect by the clerk of the House of Representatives, Patrick Giwa, on Sunday reads: “This is to inform all members of the House of Representatives that the House will now resume plenary session on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at 10.am.
“Members are advised to take note of the new date of resumption, please.
“The Covid-19 guidelines approved by the Federal Government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and additional Guidelines developed by the House will be sent to Members’ pigeon holes for collection on resumption.
“Staff and members’ aides are to work from home and will be notified when needed in the office for any special assignment.”
Contents of similar statement issued Monday, by the clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, gave same messages to all the serving senators in the ninth Senate.
In separate telephone interviews with some of the Senators on agenda slated for the session, reconsideration of the 2020 budget and approval of the N500billion intervention fund proposed by the executive to fight COVID-19 pandemic were cited .
One of the Senators who pleaded anonymity, said, “At this time of COVID-19, all issues relating to how to fight the pandemic and insulating the economy from recession would definitely be at the front burner for consideration and possibly approval.”
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had during interface with the leadership of the National Assembly informed them that executive communication for downward review of the N10.5trillion 2020 budget and N500billion special intervention fund against COVID-19, will be forwarded to the federal lawmakers for approval.
The Minister at the interface explained that about N1.5 trillion was being proposed by the executive arm of government to be slashed from the N10.5 trillion budget size earlier approved .
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According to her, the budgetary slash arose from sharp drop in projected revenues particularly oil price benchmark upon which the budget was earlier predicated.
The budget passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhamnadu Buhari in December last year, was predicated on $57 per barrel oil price benchmark as against far below $30 per barrel being proposed as new oil price benchmark.