2017 BUDGET | PMB Meets Saraki, Dogara, Says March Deadline Sacrosanct

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met behind closed doors with Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House Of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, over issues bordering on speedy passage of the 2017 budget.
At the meeting which held in his office at the presidential villa, Abuja, the president was said to have drawn the attention of the presiding officers of the National Assembly to the fact that an expeditious passage of the appropriation bill would ensure effective implementation of the budget.
According to close sources at the meeting which lasted for about 40 minutes, the president took time to explain to Saraki and Dogara why the March deadline slated by the National Assembly to pass the budget was sacrosanct.
Confirming this, Saraki told State House correspondents after the meeting that the March deadline for passing the budget still stands and that the lawmakers are working hard to achieve it. “We are working on it and our target is still this month. We are working very hard to ensure that we meet that deadline”, he said.
Saraki said they came to brief the president and also review certain things that were done in his absence. “Well, the budget is ongoing.  Things that we passed in his absence; the issue of the CJN, the Eurobond, just general issues that are pending; the issue of the ambassadorial nominees that is due, the stability in the Niger Delta; a whole range of issues  were covered in the short period of time”.
Asked whether the President is fit to continue based on his assessment as a trained medical doctor, he said, “I came here to discuss the issues regarding the activities in the National Assembly in his absence. The president met with us and I think we were there for over 40 minutes. I was not talking to myself, so you know he was responding and we were engaging and he engaged us very well. We discussed issues of national interests. So, we are happy to see him back and he is back at the office; he is doing his work.
On his part, Dogara who pointed out that he didn’t come to the villa to assess the president said, “Like the Senate  president said, you guys are always here; you know. So, it shouldn’t be me lecturing you; you know better than I do”.
On what Nigerians  should expect this time around about the relationship between the executive and the legislature, he said, “I have always said this, even before Mr. President, that in the other climes it is always the province of the legislature to fight the executive. We fight on issues bordering on national interests, but we expect to cooperate more than we fight in the interest of our people to ensure that there is progress, one government no division.
“So, it is in the realisation of this that we will always extend the needed support to ensure that he succeeds so that our government will be rated as a successful one”, the Speaker added.
Buhari had on December 14, 2016 presented the budget of N7.298 trillion for the 2017 fiscal year to the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, gave all standing committees one week to present and defend reports of the 2017 budget of Ministries, Agencies and Departments(MDAs) under them before the committee on appropriation.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, announced the deadline to the committees at plenary and urged them to abide by the ultimatum to enable the appropriation committee to put finishing touches to the reports.
According to him, the senate was committed to passing the 2017 budget before the end of March.
Meanwhile, the 2017 budget faces threat as a drop in oil prices has become imminent, following the decision of a key member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Saudi Arabia, to reverse the output cut agreed by members of the oil cartel.
The federal government had set the crude oil benchmark for the 2017 budget at 2.2 million barrels per day at a price of $42.5 per barrel, but the Senate reviewed it upwards to $44.5 a barrel based on projections that the price surge witnessed in January, which saw oil trading at $50 per barrel, would be sustained.
Apart from the threat posed by Saudi’s action, realities at the global crude oil market indicate that oil prices may fall below $45 per barrel as the OPEC deal loses steam to shale producers.
Oil prices fell below the $50 mark yesterday after an OPEC report revealed that Saudi Arabia’s production increased above 10 million barrels per day in February, boosting production by 263,300 barrels.
According to Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia told OPEC it raised output back above 10 million barrels a day in February.

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