Drama as Reps pass 2014 budget

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On Thursday the House of Representatives passed the 2014 budget, increasing the total by N53bn.

President Goodluck Jonathan proposed a total of N4.642tn as estimates for this year, but like the Senate,  the House okayed N4.695tn.

Findings showed that both chambers earlier agreed on the figures during deliberations between their committees on appropriation and finance.

Just like the Senate did on Wednesday, the House passed N408,687,801,891 as statutory transfers;  N712,000,000,000  for  debt servicing; N2,454,887,566,702 as recurrent expenditure;   and N1,119,614,631,407 as capital expenditure,  thus  bringing the aggregate to N4,695,190,000,000.

However, there was some drama preceding the clause by clause consideration of the budget by the House members.

A member from Rivers State, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, had sought to stop the passage of the budget on the grounds that the details were not attached as “a compendium” in compliance with the rules of the House.

“What we have is not a compendium of the details. We need to have the details so that we know how projects are distributed in this budget. I move that we should stand down this budget for now”, Chinda said.

He also suggested that members should forfeit their Easter break if that would make them to consider all the details of the budget.

Chinda, a Peoples Democratic Party lawmaker, hardly concluded his speech when he was shouted down.

Some members shouted, “Nooo! Nooo!”, “sit down please”, “I say sit down my friend!”

Opposition to Chinda’s position came from a usual quarter, with the Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, dismissing Chinda.

Gbajabiamila is a member of the All Progressives Congress.

APC lawmakers were known to take the kind of stance Chinda took on Thursday, while those in the PDP would oppose them.

On Thursday, it was Gbajabiamila, who was kicking against having the details of the budget.

He called on the House to suspend all other rules and pass the budget in national interest.

“The budget cannot be postponed. Going by the provisions of Order 8(48), let us suspend our rules so that we can take the budget report”, he said.

Following the development, the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, ruled Chinda out of order and proceeded with the consideration of the budget report.

The budget immediately went through third reading after the consideration of the report.

In a brief comment, Tambuwal commended members for “working together for the good of Nigeria.”

Jonathan had presented the budget estimates to the National Assembly on December 18 last year.

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, laid the estimates to separate sessions of the Senate and the House on behalf of the President.

A disagreement over crude oil benchmark between the two chambers on the one hand and a lengthy bickering between Jonathan and the legislature over poor budget performance on the other, had delayed the presentation of the estimates for several weeks.

It would be recalled that while the President proposed $74 as the oil benchmark, the Senate had passed $76.50.  However, the House passed $79.

The two chambers later reconciled at $77.50.

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