NASS sets Nov 28 date to pass 2020 Budget

The National Assembly (NASS) on Tuesday said it would pass the 2020 Appropriation Bill  on November 28, 2019.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, made this known when he addressed journalists after the budget presentation  by President Muhammadu Buhari. He stated that the lawmakers had the desire to reverse the budget calendar to January-December.

Kalu said, “We are committed to realising this switch from what it used to be to what it ought to be – January-December budget calendar. Luckily enough, the House has inaugurated all the standing committees. The House, in order, to achieve this objective of reversing the calendar will be suspending the plenary – not suspending the House – to enable us to go into our various committees to interact with the MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies. To achieve that, we have set up a road map.”

The House’ spokesman said while the appropriation bill was presented on Tuesday, the House would debate the general principles of the budget on Wednesday and Thursday, after which it would be passed for second reading and referred to the standing committees, also known as Sub-Committees on Appropriations.

Kalu also said the House would adjourn plenary on Thursday till October 30, 2019, to allow the committees to hold budget defence sessions with Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies.

He added that the leadership of the House would meet with the leaders of the standing committees at 7pm on Thursday to discuss the road map for timely passage of the budget.

The lawmakers also said the National Assembly would hold a public hearing on the budget between October 21 and 22, 2019.

Kalu said, “From Wednesday, the 30th of October to Tuesday, the 5th of November, 2019, we are going to have submission and defence of budget reports to the Committee on Appropriations. It is important to note here that the termination date for submission of budget and defence of the same budget will be on the 5th of November. After the 5th of November, we will not accept any submission or defence by any MDA.

“From Wednesday, the 6th of November to the 27th of November, 2019, we are going  to have the collation and harmonisation of reports by the Appropriations Committee. It is our expectation – and we are working towards that with this road map we have set – that on the 28th of November, 2019, we will have the presentation of the report by the Committees on Appropriations to the Senate and the House. What it means is that our expectation is that we want to be done with this exercise on the 28 th of November, 2019. We will be done with the budget.

“Our idea is that from the beginning of December 2019, the budget is ready. You are aware that if we are able to achieve this by the first week of December or the last week of November, we will be on time to make sure that from January 2020, we will kick-start with our new budget of 2020. It is a great achievement.”

Meanwhile, the Presidency dismissed the fears by Nigerians that the increment of the Value Added Tax from 5 per cent to 7.2 per cent, as reflected in the 2020 budget, would cause more hardship for them.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Reps), Mr Umar el-Yakub, who addressed journalists after the budget presentation, said the revenue from the higher VAT would be used to develop the health and education sectors.

When asked if the Presidency was aware that VAT increment could worsen the plight of Nigerians, el-Yakub said, “No.” He added, “The government is proposing a marginal increment of the VAT to finance the budget. As you heard Mr President say, most of the money would be going to the state governments. However, to explain further, there was a long list; Mr President took time to read out the list of those exempted from the VAT increment. And certainly, those that have been exempted, which are essentially food, medicine, education and health care, are actually those that would have affected the ordinary Nigerians.

“So, the straight answer to your question will be no. I believe that it will not worsen the plight of the ordinary Nigerians. As a matter of fact, considering that the revenue  generated would be invested in infrastructure, it would further enhance the welfare and wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians.”

El-Yakub also stated that the legislature would approve the new VAT rate before the executive would implement it.

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