The September deadline planned by the Executive arm of government to present the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly (NASS) is no longer realistic as the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, yesterday retracted his position on the budget,
Lawan disclosed yesterday that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was yet to be in the possession of the Red chamber.
Also, the Senate spokesman, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, said that even though the executive was working hard on the budget for onward presentation to the legislature, the presidency might do so to in the first week of October.
After the Senate plenary yesterday, Adeyeye told journalists that NASS was in contact with the executive on the budget, adding that finishing touches were being put to it for onward presentation.
He said: "You heard what the Senate president stated. He has rolled out some of the things that we will be doing but the budget is of paramount importance.
"We will focus on some of our legislative duties so that by the first week of October when the budget comes, we will work on it and ensure that we passed it before going for recess in December," Adeyeye said.
Last Friday, Lawan told journalists that the executive had sent the MTEF, a framework that serves as a benchmark on which the budget of a fiscal year and exchange rate, are pegged.
But while welcoming senators yesterday from their two-month recess, Lawan said that they were yet to receive the MTEF from the executive.
He said that the Senate was prepared to pass the budget on time so that the country would return to the January-December cycle, and urged the executive to present the 2020 estimate on time.
Lawan, who observed that a couple of colleagues could not enjoy the break, added that senators from Kogi and Bayelsa States participated in the primary elections conducted to produce the flag bearers of their parties for the forthcoming governorship elections.
He said: "We all know how gruelling such contests can be. This resumption is surely a new beginning in our service to fatherland. I can confidently say that we have made a good start with the appropriate constitution of committees and the expeditious screening of ministerial nominees. The Senate committees were importantly constituted to function optimally. It is noteworthy that the Senate delayed its recess by a week to screen Mr. President's ministerial nominees. The exercise was eventually successfully conducted.
"I congratulate the ministers for their appointments. The stage is now set for the government to do well. It is important to mention that the ministers and other heads of government agencies are inevitably expected to work very closely with committees of the National Assembly to enable us have meaningful outcomes.
"We shall maintain the spirit of sacrifice and commitment to duty and national interest, which senators displayed during that onerous screening exercise. We have been able to show through our achievements so far that we are a cohesive Senate, ready to work in the interest of the people, despite our political differences.
"It is important we remain united so that we can succeed. Our political parties may be different but we are one Senate -the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What this means is that we should be bonded in goals and in objectives.
"We should not be pulled apart in matters of good governance for the sake of our people. The challenges of unemployment, insecurity, illiteracy and inter-ethnic conflict are not partisan challenges. They are challenges that affect everyone. The challenges are therefore our collective challenges and can only be addressed if we work together in truth.
"As a Senate, we are saddled with the responsibility of providing different levels of leadership. In leading, therefore, our focus should be the satisfaction of the interest of Nigerians. We cannot also lead alone. We have to continue to work with our sister arm, the House of Representatives, and indeed the executive.
"In working with the executive especially, the maintenance of our independence shall be a guiding philosophy. Our complementary role as an arm of government can be best done if we are truly separate. Independence is however not about confrontation and aggression, but about proper checks and balances, for good governance," he said.
Lawan, who also gave an insight into of some of the issues the Senate would treat, said: "We are aware of the problems in the educational sector, where statistics say 11 million children are out of school. The importance of education in the development of the mind, the provision of knowledge and skills cannot be overemphasised. We should think of reforming our educational sector through legislative intervention.
"The petroleum industry is long overdue for reform. Several efforts and attempts were made in the past three sessions of the National Assembly but they were unfortunately not successful. It, however, remains a legislation that should succeed. We are going to renew and redouble our efforts at the reform, by doing things differently this time.
"Youth unemployment is yet another challenge we cannot allow to continue. Youths are ideally a present and a future fulcrum of a nation's work force. They are, therefore, a priceless asset of a nation's population. While noting the ongoing reform in the agricultural sector, an improved agricultural road map could make the sector attractive to our youths and then contribute to resolving the problem of youth unemployment.
"To further improve on the agricultural sector, peasant farmers should continually be encouraged through funding, materials and mechanization, to increase their productivity, towards national self-sufficiency in food production.
"The recent xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa was rather a sad development. I appreciate the response of the Federal Government to the unfortunate incident. In the light of this and other previous xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, we need to review and strengthen our citizen diplomacy. We are ready to support the Executive to ensure that our citizens are safe and protected anywhere they choose to live in this world," he said.
Lawan commended the executive for the appropriate response to the $9.6 billion judgement debt against Nigeria in favour of Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID) by a British court.
"The case is another reminder on why we should strengthen our processes and procedures, so that questionable firms would not take advantage of us. The Senate is following government's efforts with keen interest and is hopeful that issues around the scandalous transaction are quickly resolved in favour of Nigeria," he said.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for setting up the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), adding that the Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly, will work with the executive to ensure that the economy continues to receive the necessary legislative support to perform better.
Also, the Senate yesterday said it won't interfere on the happenings in the executive concerning Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, saying that it can only intervene if there is a constitutional violation.
We Are Fine-tuning Proposal - Finance Ministry
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has said that work is still in progress on the 2020 budget.
Asked whether the September target was still feasible, the special adviser on Media to the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Yunusa Abdullahi, said that the ministry was "cleaning up the draft budget" and working at a high speed to meet the September date for its presentation to the National Assembly."