The senate yesterday said it cannot categorically state when the 2018 budget will be passed, even when it declared that the legislative work on the budget is in top gear in the senate.
While fielding questions yesterday with the senate correspondents, senate spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said he cannot tell which day the budget will be passed. This is in response to the question on whether the budget will be passed before the senate proceeds on Easter Holiday in less than three weeks from now.
"The budget process is on and I can't tell you this is the specific date it is going to end. We are working very hard on it and we want to assure Nigerians that at the end of the day, we will have a budget that will serve the purpose of Nigerians", Senator Abdullahi said.
But according to a senator who don't want to be mentioned, there is no way the 2018 budget can be passed before June this year, contrary to the ultimatum given to the MDAs by the senate two weeks ago to submit their budget estimates latest Friday this weekin order to pass the budget, even if it has to be passed the way President Muhammadu Buhari presented it to the legislature.
The senate on February 28, 2018 issued a one week ultimatum to ministers, and the heads of departments and agencies of government, to appear before its relevant committees to defend their 2018 budget estimates.
The upper legislative chamber said the attitude of the heads of MDAs, in shunning appearances for budget defence, is responsible for the delay in the passage of the N8.612 trillion national budget bill into law.
The senate warned that the failure to adhere to its ultimatum would cause it to adopt the proposal submitted for such MDAs by the executive arm of government.
The matter was again discussed at plenary yesterday when Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, sought an update on the status of the bill, from the Appropriation Committee.
The vice chairman of the Committee, Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (Imo APC), said most sub-committees have been complaining about the attitudes of the MDAs, who have failed to properly defend their budget estimates.
"Since January, the Appropriations Committee's doors have been opened to receive reports from the sub-committees, but most of the sub-committees have a huge challenge with the MDAs because majority of the MDAs are not coming forward to interface with them," he said.
But the senator who spoke to LEADERSHIP said the budget process is still at the committee level; and it is yet to be transmitted to the Appropriation Committee to collate all the submissions of the committees.
"The senators will proceed on two to three weeks Easter Holiday in the next two weeks. There is no way the budget can be passed before the senators proceed on Easter.
"After the Easter holiday, the Appropriation Committee will work on the budget for three weeks and that will take the senate till end of May 2018 to early June 2018 before the budget can be passed.
"Besides, the mood of my colleagues are not enthusiastic or lightening enough with respect to the passage of the 2018 budget.