By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The Senate on Tuesday frowned at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and 32 other parastatals and agencies of government for failing to submit their 2017 budget proposal eight months after they were due to have been submitted.
Following a point of Order raised by the Leader of the Senate Bala Ibn Na’Allah, the Senate said the action of the parastatals were against the anti-corruption fight of the current administration.
The Senate therefore threatened to stifle the agencies of funds such that they would only be able to pay salaries, if they failed to submit their budget.
Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah who drew the attention of his colleagues to the illegality said that the agencies were so far spending money that had not been appropriated by the legislature.
Na’Allah said that he decided to bring the issue on the floor of the National Assembly so that the senators can understand the implication of the agencies spending without approval.
He noted that such agencies had been spending money since January without submitting their budget for approval.
“I deliberately decided that I will bring it on the floor, so that Senators will understand the implications.
“In our commitment to assist this government to fight corruption, we must stand on our feet that every spirit of our law must be obeyed by those holding public offices.
“I think that if you permit me I will like to come tomorrow by way of motion, so it can be debated on the Floor of the Senate.”
“The only approach this Senate can take to assist this government in fighting corruption, is to insist that gross abuse of power and misuse of power must be stopped by every government agency.
“The only way we can build our institutions is to radically address the issue of abuse of power and misuse of power,” he said.
Section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that all Revenue Generating Agencies shall not spend revenues they generate except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.
Also, Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 stipulates that federal agencies should submit their budget estimates to the National Assembly on or before the end of September.
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, while ruling on the point of order, expressed displeasure over the failure by most government agencies to submit their 2017 budget proposals to the National Assembly for consideration and approval.
The Senate President condemned the practice where agencies of government spend money without statutory approval by the National Assembly and ruled that the issue be debated and resolution taken by the Senate on Wednesday.
“We are already in May. How can Parastatals be operating without any budget, especially in this time of the fight against corruption and ensuring that there is transparency in governance?
“We need to take this matter seriously because clearly these agencies are just flouting the guidelines and breaking the law.
“This is a very serious issue because as we all know, in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, these budgets are meant to have been submitted to the National Assembly since August 2016.
“They are supposed to have come with the Appropriation document. We have now passed the 2017 budget without the budgets of the parastatals.
“I think this matter really needs to come up as a motion because this is a very serious matter. We need to debate it,” he said.
He said that any committee that has received budget proposals from the parastatal it oversights should also be on ground to clear such agencies of government.
“But if as at middle of May, we are saying we have not received any budget from them, then which money are they spending and with what authority?
“We need to look into that and take a decision that may be they can only pay salaries until they bring their budgets here and approvals given.
“I think once and for all, we need to address this issue and put an end to this disregard for laws and areas of corrupt practices,” Saraki said.
While briefing newsmen after plenary on Tuesday, Spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said that only four agencies out of 38 had submitted their budget.
The agencies that had concurred included: the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI).
Top on the list of the 34 agencies yet to submit their budget are: The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS),
Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Maritime Authority, Nigerian Shippers Council, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Others are: Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Radio Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), National Communications Commission (NCC) National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) among others.
Recall that in 2016 President Muhammadu Buhari submitted the Appropriation Bill along with the budget of all the 38 parastatals and agencies of government.
However, only the aforementioned four agencies had their budget submitted along with the 2017 Appropriation Bill which has now been approved by the National Assembly.