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Budget: Reps committee to meet Okonjo-Iweala, Okogu

By on February 20, 2015

The House of Representatives on Wednesday constituted a 17-member special committee to meet with the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the 2015 budget.

The committee, which is headed by the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Mr. John Enoh, was named minutes after the House rose from a one-hour closed-door session.

The Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, who announced the setting up of the committee, explained that it had the primary mandate of discussing the crude oil benchmark of the budget with the minister and the Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu.

The committee was asked to discuss the 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and all the parameters related to the budget with Okonjo-Iweala and Okogu.

The development suggested that the House had been unable to decide on the appropriate oil price benchmark for the N4.3tn budget proposal over one month after it referred the financial document to its Joint Committee on Appropriations/Finance on January 14.

It will be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan had submitted a benchmark proposal of $65 per barrel of crude to the National Assembly amid falling prices in the international market.

The global price of crude oil has continued to hover around $50.

On January 14, when the budget passed second reading at the House, the lawmakers had directed the committees to hold sessions on it with Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.

The Joint Committee on Appropriations/Finance was specifically directed to make recommendations on a realistic benchmark oil price for the budget.

But investigations by The PUNCH showed that between January 14 and February 17, 2015 when members reconvened in Abuja, not much work was done on the budget proposals as the majority of the lawmakers were busy with electioneering ahead of the earlier scheduled February 14 presidential poll.

Our correspondent learnt that the expected report on the budget was not available when the House resumed on Tuesday.

A member of the House told our correspondent, “This issue dominated discussions at the closed-door session held today. There were challenges and a lot of committees had not finalised their defence sessions with the MDAs.

“But, more importantly, the House needs input from the Finance minister and the budget office. The special committee is an expanded committee to look at all the challenges with the minister, particularly on how to resolve the benchmark so that the budget can be passed.”