Buhari to present 2021 budget next week, Lawan says

President Muhammadu Buhari will present the 2021 Appropriations Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly next week, it was learnt.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, made this known in his opening remarks to welcome Senators back from their eight weeks annual vacation in Abuja.

Lawan said the Senate would give the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government a one month window to defend their estimates during the consideration of the 2021 budget.

He said: “I am aware that the Executive will be presenting the 2021 Budget Estimates by next week.

“The Senate will provide a one month window for Budget defense by Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

“Like last year, the month of October, 2020 will be dedicated for this exercise. Subsequent months of November and December will be dedicated to the internal processing of the Budget by NASS.

“The various MDAs are therefore advised to ensure that they avail themselves the opportunity of the Budget defense window to appear with all the relevant and necessary information to defend their Budget Estimates.”

Lawan said the 1999 Constitution as amended needed to be reviewed regularly to improve the quality of governance and ensure stability in the nation’s polity.

He said the ongoing review of the Constitution and reforms of the Electoral Act would be given speedy consideration by the Senate.

He added: “The Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution has already invited Memoranda from citizens and organisations alike.’’

“The Senate will ensure speedy work on the review exercise. Also the Electoral Reform Amendment Bills will be treated with despatch.

“We must ensure that we make amendments that will enhance free, fair, transparent and credible elections in our country.

“The security situation in our country is not what we want it to be. We want a security situation that guarantees protection of lives and property of citizens.”

He insisted that while the country is bedevilled by multifaceted security challenges, the National Assembly would continuously seek enduring measures to arrest the situation.

“In this regard, the Senate will continue to provide the necessary legislative intervention at all times to improve the situation.

“There can never be any more important government function than the protection of lives and property of it’s citizens,” he said.

He commended various committees of the Senate for undertaking oversights during the Recess.

Lawan said: “These oversights are necessary activities of this Senate to ensure that the Executive implements government programmes and projects with efficiency and effectiveness.

“Also worthy of our commendation is the engagement of our Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning with Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTF/FSP) during the Recess.

“The Committee interacted with over 300 MDAs over the issues of Revenue Generation and Remittances to the Federal Government.

“The Joint committee will present its report to the Senate today for consideration. This is a precursor to the presentation of the 2021 Budget Estimates by the Executive Arm of Government soon.

“I am aware that the Executive will be presenting the 2021 Budget Estimates by next week.

“Similarly, our Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Petroleum Resources (Upstream) and Gas have had some preliminary engagements with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other Stakeholders in the Oil and Gas industry, to discuss the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

“The PIB has been  conveyed to the Senate for consideration.

“The Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted our budgetary plans, requiring the review of the 2020 Budget. We must carry out oversights to ensure that the revised 2020 Budget is properly implemented.

“The oversights are even more imperative as the Revised 2020 Budget is targeted at addressing the specific challenges occasioned by COVID-19 Pandemic.

“The Senate needs to pay particular attention to the implementation of the Federal Government Economic Sustainability Plan.

“This strategic Plan is an essential means of revamping our economy, as it provides interventions in the Mass Agricultural Programme, Infrastructure, Mass Housing Programme, Investments in Healthcare Infrastructure, amongst others.

“We were confronted with an over $14billion revenue gap and the grim reality of an unwholesome overdependence on Oil.

“We cannot overemphasize the need to focus on other important sectors like Agriculture, Solid Minerals, and Steel Development and manufacturing, with a view to diversifying our economy.

“We need to work with relevant stakeholders to prevent our economy going into a recession, stimulate the economy, save and create more jobs through a sustainable multiplier effect.”

He attributed some of the achievements of the 9th Senate in the preceeding year to the ”bi-partisanship, patriotism, unity of purpose and our commitment to the Nigerian people.”

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