The Leadership of the National Assembly on Thursday met with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to be briefed by the latter on the plan by the Federal Government to amend the N10.59 trillion 2020 budget passed by the National Assembly in December last year. 

The meeting which had in attendance principal officers from both chambers, was presided over by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. 

The Senate President, in his welcome address told the Executive arm of Government to ensure that the interest of Nigerians remains protected in the proposed cut to the 2020 national budget. 

Lawan also expressed the willingness of the Federal lawmakers to expeditiously consider the proposed amendment to the 2020 budget which the Minister said would be presented to the National Assembly by next week. 

“The budget amendment is very important, but I believe that when we are faced with this kind of challenge (COVID-19 pandemic), it is an emergency and we should do everything and anything possible to fast track the passage and implementation of the government intervention that is so critical and crucial at this stage.

“I believe that we shouldn’t delay it any longer. Next week, and I will suggest the early part of next week, we should have that document(MTEF) ready so that we can consider it alongside the budget. It is supposed to be the tonic of what Nigerians are waiting for. 

“We have listened to the various adjustments you have made to avoid going into recession. However, to avoid going into a deeper recession, I think we need to do a little bit much more.

“After this meeting with the leadership, I suggest that you engage with our relevant committees in the Senate and House of Representatives to look at the nitty gritty that would be considered more in detail at the presentation level. 

“On the whole, let me assure you that the National Assembly and Executive arm are on the same page, and that is to say that we will work to ensure that we have a budget 2020 amendment that will address the needs of the people of this country. 

“One thing is that the net public expenditure must be targeted at net maximum performance for the benefit of the people of this country. 

“In other words, we must come up with an amended budget that is operable and favorable to Nigerians,” Lawan said. 

Also speaking, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, called on the Federal Government to adopt a feasible benchmark in the proposed amendment to the 2020 budget. 

“The benchmark is so critical and so important, because once you passed the law, it becomes difficult to adjust that benchmark, and then what happens to the excess?

“We have always had problems with the Excess Crude Account, potentially an account which has no backing of the law. So, let’s even assume that the price remains static at $35, that means we have $10 going to the Excess Crude Account which we have no control over in terms of spending, that is why we guard that benchmark price very jealously.

“Is there a possibility of having a proviso built in in the budget…So that there can be an automatic kick in if the benchmark price goes beyond $26 or $27. We want you to explore that possibility.

“So, I think you should study the market and see what happens next week by the time you present the adjusted budget,” Gbajabiamila said.

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