National Assembly rejects budget cut to N115billion; ...settles for N120billion

The National Assembly on Thursday rejected the proposal by the federal government to cut their annual budget of N150 billion to N115 billion and instead pegged the federal legislature’s 2015 budget at N120 billion.

This fresh decision was the fallout of the report of the conference committee of both houses of the National Assembly which met on the benchmark for the budget on Wednesday.

The report which recommended $53 benchmark for 2015 budget, was adopted by the Senate.

A careful study of the report showed that whereas the Senate had earlier agreed to a budget cut from N150 billion to N115 billion, the House of Representatives on its part, rejected the decision and insisted that the figure be raised to N120 billion.

Consequently, the committee resolved to adopt the House of Representatives’ version which had earlier agreed to only reduce the National Assembly budget to N120 billion.

This National Assembly’s decision is likely to put the institution in the eyes of the storm in the near future as it is viewed to have confirmed the perception of the vast majority of Nigerians that the lawmakers feed fat on the nation’s treasury and will do everything to sustain it.

Before the conference committee was constituted, the Joint National Assembly Committee on Finance had had an understanding with the federal government to peg the oil benchmark at $52 per barrel.

This resolution reportedly followed the decision of the committee which had earlier rejected the plea by the federal government to peg the benchmark at $55 per barrel.

But while the Senate adopted the recommendation of $52 per barrel, the House of Representatives in its usual act of grandstanding rejected it and instead adopted a new benchmark of $54 per barrel. This forced the leadership of the National Assembly to constitute a conference committee of both houses to harmonise the differences.

When the committee concluded its assignment on Wednesday, it neither adopted the Senate version on the benchmark nor agreed to that of the House of Representatives. Instead, it settled for a fresh benchmark of $53 per barrel.

However, the conference committee adopted the Senate version on foreign exchange which had put the rate at N190 to $1. The adoption followed the rejection of the House version which had recommended $198 to $1 as foreign exchange for 2015 budget. The official exchange rate is N199 to $1.

Credit: Omololu Ogunmade/ThisDay