Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Senate is currently in a dilemma over the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President had sent the MTEF/FSP, which will form the basis for the national annual budget for three years, to both chambers of the National Assembly for legislative approval.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly may make a U-turn on its consideration by returning the document to the Executive. This is just as the December 1 date being proposed by the President to present the 2017 Appropriation Bill has become uncertain.
The Senate had held a closed door session on Thursday, where the lawmakers reportedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the acceptance of the new MTEF/FSP, which narrowly escaped being rejected again on Wednesday.
A senator, who gave our correspondent a hint of what transpired at the session, said most of the lawmakers felt the Senate should send the document back to the Executive rather than accept the burden of reworking it.
This, the source said, might not make the December 1 target for the presentation of next year’s draft budget achievable.
He said, “People expressed their opinions; the MTEF/FSP issue was discussed. Yesterday (Wednesday), we did not agree on it per se and that was why it was referred to the Senate committees on Finance and Appropriation. But we realised that there is little to what the committee can do because the issue is about facts and figures, which the committee cannot manufacture.
“You know that I am for Buhari; I am not against him. But that MTEF/FSP is rubbish.”
When asked about the possibility of the Senate returning the document to the Executive for the second time, the lawmaker said, “Most likely, because there is nothing in it that we can work on.
“The MTEF is talking about 2.2 million barrels of oil per day production when as of today, the country hardly achieves 1.8 million barrels per day. Have they addressed the renewed insurgency in the oil rich Niger Delta such that they can project 2.5mbpd? Does that make any sense?”
The Senate had earlier rejected the MTEF/FSP over the failure by the Executive to include some critical details in the document.
The Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, had described the first version of the MTEF and FSP as “empty.”
The second version was, however, described by the lawmakers during Wednesday’s plenary as making unrealistic projections.
The senators, who took turns to criticise the new version of the MTEF/FSP as well as the officials who prepared the document on Wednesday, submitted that it should be sent back to the Executive to include the “correct” figures showing the true state of the economy.
Another senator, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said lawmakers at Thursday’s meeting were also divided over a clause in the bill for the amendment of the Electoral Act, which encapsulates the electoral and operational procedures of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The controversial clause is seeking to determine what happens to the mandate when a candidate of a political party dies after an election has begun and before the results are announced.
Senators had been sharply divided over the clause when the Committee on INEC presented its report to the chamber, forcing the Senate to suspend the consideration of the amendment bill for two weeks.
On November 2, 2016, there were disagreements on the floor on who should assume the candidature of a party whose candidate dies in the middle of an election.
The open disagreement forced the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to ask that the bill be sent back to the Committee on INEC for further legislative work.
The controversial clause was another subject matter during the closed session on Thursday.
The source said lawmakers also disagreed on the proposed direct and indirect primaries for the determination of candidates by political parties.
“The disagreements centred on these two issues,” the source stated.
It was gathered that the senators agreed to leave the issue of direct primaries to the political parties.
“It was concluded that the parties could become hamstrung if the National Assembly fixes the mode of primaries in the Electoral Act,” the source explained.
The senators, it was learnt, warned against clauses that could create a situation where technicalities would be used to cause tension in the polity, such as what happened in Abia State where a governor was almost sacked over tax returns.
The amendment of the Electoral Act had suffered a setback at the Senate recently when lawmakers failed to reach a decision on it. (Punchng.com)