A meeting of the National Assembly leadership held at the Presidential Villa last week appeared to have softened the ground for the presentation of the 2018 budget estimates, sources in the legislature have said.

The president is scheduled to present the 2018 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly tomorrow, having communicated the two chambers of the Assembly to seek permission.

It was gathered that though the budget estimates were ready and had been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the National Assembly was not ready to receive the document until substantial work was done on 2018 to 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), the prerequisites to the budget.

Sources in the legislature confirmed that the lawmakers were not eager to receive the budget because the Presidency had submitted the MTEF/FSP quite late.

A number of the committee chairmen were of the view that allowing the president to submit the budget when much work had not been done on the MTEF would amount to dumping the budget on the legislature.

Some lawmakers were also said to have cautioned that the same Presidency would start engineering Nigerians to agitate for quick passage of the budget once it was submitted, not minding that the lawmakers needed to follow due process.

As things are, not much work has been done on the documents that must have been passed before the budget could be computed.

Besides, a number of committee chairmen in the Senate and the House of Representatives were said to have reported the poor implementation of the 2017 budget to the leadership, prompting the lawmakers to demand a comprehensive report on the budget implementation.

For instance, sources said that at a recent executive session in one of the chambers, when issues of budget implementation were mentioned, some of the committee chairmen reported that the 2017 budget had not been implemented up to 15 per cent and that most of the agencies were reporting 11 to 14 per cent implementation.

As a result of the report, many of the members were said to have mandated their leaders to secure a detailed report from the president before the presentation of the 2018 budget.

The failure of the principal officers to secure detailed information on the implementation of the 2017 budget was said to have informed the ‘nay’ vote against the president’s letter when it was read on the floor of the House last week.

Sources, however, said the leadership of the Senate and the House had assured the president that they would prevail on their members to create a conducive atmosphere for the budget presentation.

“Despite indications that the president did not give clear and direct answers to some of the questions raised at the dinner last Tuesday, the leadership had decided to reach out to members to pave the way for the president to present the budget,” a lawmaker said on Sunday.

He added, however, that the president would have a tough time convincing members that the 2017 budget had been faithfully implemented.

It was also gathered that the leadership of the Assembly could not affirm the need to quickly pass the budget before the end of the year.

“No one can guarantee that,” a senator said.

“Where the president would have a problem is in convincing members that his team has implemented the 2017 budget faithfully. But the leadership has appealed that members should hear the nation’s leader out first and do what is needful on the document to be submitted.

“Essentially, the budget document becomes a property of the National Assembly once submitted by the president and that is what the leadership is preaching to avoid any sort of heckling on,” another lawmaker told Tribune Online.

It was gathered that the Villa meeting, though agreed on the presentation of the budget before the passage of the MTEF/FSP, also agreed on a carryover of most of the constituency projects contained in the 2017 budget, which had not been implemented at all.

Sources in the polity, however, told Tribune Online that the Presidency was already expressing worries over the perceived unfavourable atmosphere in the House of Representatives, a situation the All Progressives Congress (APC) had been asked to check.

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