15 February 2013

Nigeria: Budget 2013 - Nigerians Are Running Out of Time - Saraki

Photo: Vanguard
Budget 2013

Abuja — CHAIRMAN, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki, PDP, Kwara, yesterday, said that if President Goodluck Jonathan cannot sign the 2013 budget as passed by the National Assembly into law, he should return it to the lawmakers.

The former governor of Kwara State said Nigerians who were eager to have the budget signed and implemented were running out of time.

Saraki's call is coming on the heels of the end of the mandatory thirty days for the National Assembly to veto presidency over a Bill that has been passed for presidential assent.

Answering questions from jounalists in Abuja, Senator Saraki said: "Time is running out for the budget to be signed into law; otherwise, the gains for passing the Budget would be lost. I don't want to speculate on issues with the budget. There is now urgency for the presidency to sign the budget into law or return it to the National Assembly for further necessary legislative action."

On the formation of the All Progressives Congress, APC, following the marriage of four opposition political parties, Senator Saraki who described the merger as good for democracy and a wake up call for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said it will keep the ruling party on its toes.

He noted: "PDP should not be complacent. We need to sit up; APC is good for our democracy; it will keep us on our toes; we must watch the unfolding scenario."

On possible threat of the proposed mega opposition party to PDP, he said, "it is too early though to think so", adding "I doubt if the APC will not scatter and be uncoordinative".

The former chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum, however, rejected calls for local government autonomy, stressing that 70 per cent of the LGs cannot survive on their own and that if they don't have the states to work with they will not survive.

On the Petroleum Industry Bill that was currently at the National Assembly, Saraki said, "the problem with the PIB is that there are so many things that are taken at the same time". He regretted that although "some of them are controversial" the kind of criticisms trailing is misplaced.

He said: "The key issues which are fiscal are not being addressed. Rather than condemn the Bill in its entirety, we should have taken administrative and institutional framework instead of dumping it for political reason. We want to right the wrongs that were committed in so many decades; the damage is too much".

The senator, however, urged that the Senate "should not keep it in abeyance", stressing, "we should either pass it or reject it; we will try and pass it after wide consultations.

He said the committee on environment was doing its best and that his committee was the first to visit pollution sites, just as he observed that the oil companies were in the habit of pollution because, adding, "there is no law in the land that panalises oil spills, noting that the amendment Bill on NOSDRA currently at the Natioinal Assembly, is aimed at redressing the situation.

"If we can pass these amendments there will be no need for anybody to travel to the Hagues to sue an oil firm; right now the oil majors are feeling the heat. We need political will to combat gas flaring. A bill is currently in the Senate, it is yet to pass Second Reading.

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