Nothing wrong with NASS increasing budget – PPA Chairman

The National Chairman of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Chief Peter Ameh, said National Assembly did no wrong in increasing 2018 Budget from N8.61 trillion to N9.12 trillion.

Ameh made the observation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.

The Appropriation Bill was increased by the legislature by N508 billion, from N8.61 trillion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari when he presented it to the assembly in November, 2017.

Ameh said that the action of the lawmakers was in line with the reality on ground, adding that the assembly had explained reasons for the increase, which related to oil benchmark and exchange rates.

The Appropriation Committees of both chambers of the assembly had on Tuesday laid their reports on the budget before their respective chambers, preparatory to passage of the bill.

In their respective reports, they increased the oil price benchmark to 51 dollars per barrel as against 45 dollars per barrel, which the president premised his proposal on.

They also benchmarked crude oil production at 2.3 million barrels per day and exchange rate of N305 to one dollar.

Ameh said that people were not looking at why the budget was increased, but “are looking at it as if it is selfish intension of the national assembly’’.

“The national assembly is not a rubberstamp and the executive too, is not a perfect organ. If the Assembly is a rubberstamp, the executive will not have taken the budget there.

“ What the assembly does is to look at areas that might cause us problems. The increment is in tandem with the reality on ground.

“They look at it critically and then take decision; the increment from N8.61 trillion to 9.12 trillion is not a problem.

“Our budget must be the budget that will drive the economy and impact on the people.’’

The party chairman, however, advised Buhari to immediately study and assent to the Appropriation Bill as passed.

“The president should assent to it on time so that Nigeria can be put to work and for there to be massive infrastructural development.

“He should sign it so that money will be pumped into the economy to enable our people to have enough to take care of their families,’’ he said.

He also called for adequate cash-backing for the budget when signed into law, saying that most times, “our budget is not implemented beyond 50 per cent’’.

Recalling recent past where budget was returned to the national assembly, Ameh advised the two arms of government to see themselves as partners in progress.

“The National Assembly and the Executive are co-arms of the government.  The president should see the national assembly as partners in progress and vice versa.

“If they are collectively working together, there will be no need to return any passed bill

“If the party is working together, what they should have done is to have a pre-budget passing meeting.

“In most civilised countries where the national assembly is controlled by one party and with the executive in close working relationship, what they do is to have a pre-budget passing meeting.

“They discuss areas of differences and put them under a favourable agreement and pass the budget.’’

According to Ameh, I believe that dialoguing before taking decisions will help us to reduce the acrimony that currently exists between the legislature and the executive.