Abuja — Leaders of the National Assembly will meet today within its precincts to discuss the proposed budget for the 2019 election.
Sources close to Senate President Bukola Saraki confirmed yesterday that the planned joint meeting of the leaders of the two chambers, comprising the presiding officers and the principal officers, holds at noon.
It was learnt that the management of the National Assembly and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would join the meeting at 1:00 p.m. which is expected to resolve the worry over the 2019 polls budget
President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 17, 2018 written to the two chambers of the National Assembly, seeking approval of N242 billion for the 2019 general elections, while also seeking virement of some projects in the 2018 budget.
In the letter read by Saraki to the senators at the commencement of session on that day, Buhari asked that N228, 854 billion out of the N578, 319 billion worth of projects 'inserted' by the National Assembly into the 2018 budget be vired or converted for the purpose of funding the 2019 election as well as funding N64,749 billion critical projects which were cut off by the legislature from the budget.
The President's letter tagged "request for virement and supplementary 2018 budget" explained that "in the light of prevailing fiscal constraints, I am proposing that N164,104,792,065.00 be provided for through virement or supplementation of the 2018 budget. I propose that the balance of N78,340,530.535.00 mostly related to personnel allowances, fueling and other costs not required until the election proper, be provided in their 2019 budget."
Hint of the planned meeting came yesterday as Acting President Yemi Osinbajo met with the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan and Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It was learnt that the meeting, which was held behind closed doors in Osinbajo's office, focused on issues relating to the election budget.
The Guardian gathered that it was convened to also prevail on the leadership of the National Assembly to reconvene, consider and pass the supplementary budget.
Lawan who was joined by Enang while briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, said the government would be shot down, with dire consequences, if the leadership of the National Assembly failed to reconvene the parliament and facilitate quick passage of the budget.
They said Buhari passed the 2019 capital budget with the understanding that the greater amount of the money would be gotten from foreign loans.
Specifically, Lawan said preparation for the 2019 elections and other financial needs might be hampered by delay in considering the virement.
"You know this is our administration. I have come to brief him (Acting President) on the situation in the Senate. We also discussed the need for National Assembly to convene immediately for us to pass the virement on the supplementary budget sent by Mr. President.
"The budget for 2018, the capital aspect, will be largely funded by foreign facilities, loans. Now we need to approve that. We also need to approve other important and essential requests, especially that of INEC and other security agencies for our security to be improved.
"It is therefore very essential that we reconvene immediately to look into those issues because our government is almost stalled and I believe that if we are able to pass the supplementary budget and virement request, this administration will be able to provide the various infrastructure that we have planned to provide for Nigerians and all other projects for national development."
When asked what the response of the acting president was, he said: "I briefed him on the situation in the Senate. There are conflicting information coming out from the caucuses. We said we are the majority, the APC caucus, because we are 53, and we have given the media the list of everyone.
"The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus will tell you they are in the majority, I will take this opportunity for the third time to challenge the PDP caucus to publish the names of its members. They have never done that, they will only tell you that they are 55, they are 60, they are 65. Publish the names and let Nigerians see.
"If we don't reconvene and pass the request, what that means is that we have turned against this country, we are stalling the administration and invariably, fighting the people because the people want us to do those things that will make them happy."