Senate dumps Buhari’s ‘empty’ 2017 – 2019 MTEF

Ebun Francis

The uneasy relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive continued Thursday as  the Senate threw out President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2017 to 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). The Upper house in throwing out the document, described the fiscal document which is a prelude to the presentation of the 2017 budget as “completely empty”, not worthy of its consideration. It will be recalled that the Senate, Tuesday refused to approve President Buhari’s request of $2.96bn external loan to reflect the economy.

Thursdays proceedings on the floor of the senate began with, Senate Leader Ali Ndume, drawing the the attention of members to a publication where the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma reportedly blamed the  inability of the Presidency to present the 2017 budget last month as promised on the National Assembly. According to Ndume, it was wrong for Udoma to give the impression that the National Assembly was responsible for the avoidable delay in presentation of the 2017 budget when the MTEF submitted to the National Assembly was “empty”.

Ndume, displaying a copy of the MTEF repeatedly stated, “this document is empty, it is completely empty and you cannot build something on nothing.”

He continued,   “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?

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“Going through and knowing that it is empty, on October 19, 2016 I wrote to the Minister of Budget and National Planning. The minister failed to turn up.

“Before then, I said you are requested to please send the following documents ahead of the meeting because that is what will make us have something to consider: draft copy of Medium Term Development Plan upon which the 2017 to 2019 MTEF is founded.

“Secondly, I requested that a comprehensive report on the implementation of 2016 budget as of third quarter. And thirdly, fiscal rates taxes, charges etc used to derive the projected revenue.

“Finally, a report on the structure, composition of the debt, funding, sources, how the borrowed funds are to be spent as well as repayment plan and schedule.

“We cannot afford to start the 2017 budget process with this blame game. This Senate is the 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. When they bring nothing and we ask for something so that we will do it properly, they run to the newspaper to start blaming the National Assembly.”

The Senate Leader prayed the senate to call Senator Udo Udoma to order.

The Senate President, while responding urged senators to be mindful of issues that could bread controversy ahead of the presentation of 2017 budget as the  minister had denied the reported publication.

Accordingto Saraki,  “I saw this article too. I had taken up the Minister and he denied the article. He said he was going to debunk it. Be that as it may, I think the matter should not be stressed.

“The Leader has made the point that this issue of blame game is totally unnecessary. And if he (Udoma) that he is withdrawing, that means he has said it as well that the National Assembly is not responsible for any delay.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representative Thursday, also launched a motion to probe the Presidential panel on arms on procurement.