Senate increases Buhari’s N180bn request to N214bn

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Less than a week after the House of Representatives raised the N180 billion vire­ment request of President Mu­hammadu Buhari by N28 billion, the Senate on Tuesday increased it by N34 billion. This brings the money to N214billion.
But during the consideration of the report by the Committee on Appropriation on the vire­ment of funds appropriated for special investment (recurrent) and special intervention (cap­ital) for funding of critical re­current and capital items in the 2016 Appropriation Act, the Dep­uty Senate President, Ike Ekwer­emadu declared that virement is unconstitutional.
Citing Section 81(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amend­ed), Ekweremadu noted that the portion of the law allows the Pres­ident to submit a supplementary budget to the National Assembly in the event of any shortfall in the budget.
According to him, the Ap­propriation Act and Supplemen­tary Act are provided for in the Constitution but virement has no place in it.
He, therefore, implored the Senate and all those piloting the affairs of the state to correct the anomaly and stick only to consti­tutional provisions.
Senator Abdullahi Adamu drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that Section 24 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) provides for virement, stressing that FRA is also part of the laws by which the country is governed.
Adamu said: “Nobody in his senses will doubt or contest the very clear provisions of the con­stitution with respect to budg­etary appropriations. However, there is a Fiscal Responsibility Act and Section 24 provides for virement. While we accept the in­tervention, we don’t want to cre­ate the impression to have meant a wrong thing in totality because there is a FRA which is recog­nised by the constitution.”
Consequently, Adamu, in ap­preciating Ekweremadu’s obser­vation pointed out that President Buhari did not breach the law by submitting the virement to the National Assembly.
Reacting to the constitutional question raised by Ekweremadu, the Senate President Bukola Sa­raki, appreciated the clarification. He said that what the Senate was doing was to help the Executive arm of government tackle the “menacing economic problem” in the country.
Thereafter, the Upper House approved the virement after rais­ing it to N214 billion.
The Lower House had in­creased the same virement to N208, explaining that the addi­tional funds was due to the short­falls discovered during the meet­ing of the National Assembly Joint Appropriations Commit­tee with heads of Ministries, De­partments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.
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