The Senate Committee Chairman on Information, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, has said that the National Assembly had passed the 2013 Appropriation Act last month and that it was in the custody of the president.
Speaking to journalists yesterday in Abuja, Abaribe said "the Senate has passed the 2013 budget, any other thing that is going on now is the normal course of the bureaucracy involved and I don't think that there would be any problem with that.
"The important thing to note is that the 2013 budget was on passed on December 20 by a concurrence of both Houses and the passage also by both Houses of the National Assembly and that officially is the passage of the budget by the Parliament."
On whether it has been passed to the executive, he said ,"I will have to assume that such has been done because after you have passed the budget, what is left is simply mechanical; you get a clean copy and then you send it. I am assuming that it must have been passed (to him)."
Reacting to questions over the delay in the passage, he doused fears that the budget would suffer late implementation.
"I do not think that it is late," he said. "This is January 14 and whenever the assent is done this January, the budget can start to operate.
"I would want us not to focus on this question of whether there is some lag. I do not think that such lag is significant for it to mean that the operation of the budget will not start from January. We worked assiduously to be able to deliver to Nigerians what we promised to do, in line also with what the President, when he delivered a budget address in the National Assembly, said - that it was time for us to keep to schedule. We have kept to our own schedule and I think that Nigerians will not find us lagging in any way with regards to that."
He further noted that the Senate would not entertain the late arrival of budgets to the National Assembly anymore.
"There are few agencies of government which, over time, their budget has come late," he noted. I know that NDDC is one but if you also recollect, we passed a resolution on the floor of the Senate that we will no longer entertain government agencies of that nature, their budgets coming very late and we asked NDDC to also submit its 2013 budget, which has been done and for which we know that consideration must be efficaciously done so that every government agency will work along the same time frame like the federal budget. That is our intention and I don't know of any other agency whose budget is late because we have NDDC, NCC and FCT budget."
On delay in signing SEC's budget he said "Your guess is as good as mine. I think that there are some codicils that have been added to that and if in the opinion of House of Representatives, something needs to be done and urgently done; we can only advise and urge the President to take a very good look at the position of the House of Representatives. Beyond that, we also feel in the Senate that anybody that works for Mr. President should as much as possible, not put Mr. President at loggerheads with the Parliament, it doesn't happen and I think that that is the position that should be taken by anybody who loves this country. I don't think there is any individual that is far more important to the country than the rest of us. The Parliament - the House of Representatives and the Senate are the representatives of the people and whenever they collectively take a position, we assume that such position is in the best interest of the country. We have never taken a position here that was not in the best interest of the country and I think that that should lay to rest, that matter."
He also urged the Federal Government and the Lagos State government to sort out the grey areas in the Lagos State government loan issue adding that when the loan request gets to Senate it will be treated on its merit.
"For any proposition to pass through the Nigerian legislature, it has to have the concurrence of both houses and if the Lagos State government had come to made a presentation to the House of Reps and subsequently to the Senate and the Senate will take it, then, it will be taken at the Plenary and we will look at it as the case may be. But I dare say as Abaribe representing Abia South that everybody who is in this Parliament is representing one constituency or the other and the constituency that is called Lagos cannot be said to equate to Nigeria. So, if anybody says that if Lagos does not get a loan, then, Nigeria will suffer an economic crisis, that is stretching matters too much. What we say is 'make your case and if it is as good as everybody will see it, then, there would be no reason for the Parliament not to assist and grant whatever requests that are made. But if you have a problem within the executive because this is a problem between the state and federal executive, then, both must come to make their cases to us to see whether we will approve or not but I will not want this matter to seen as Nigeria breaking up matter. I don't think it has reached that stage."