As President Muhammadu Buhari presents the 2017 Budget to the Joint Session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Senate has said that it would not be a rubber stamp in consideration of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which is due to be discussed on Thursday.
The position of the Senate was made known yesterday by its Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who represented the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, when a civil society group, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) led by Barrister Eze Onyekpere submitted a report on MTEF to the Senate.
The Senate Leader who justified his earlier comments that the MTEF was empty said gone are the days when the National Assembly would rubber stamp any document, insisting that the legislature will always analyze all documents to ensure that the interest of the citizens are protected.
According to the Senate Leader, “We are Nigerians, we represent Nigerians, this is Medium Terms Expenditure Framework for Nigerians and not for the World Bank. And in the Senate, we have experts. So, when they brought the MTEF, we said that we will subject it to critical analyses and not rubber stamp it and then it was in the media that National Assembly should be blamed for not passing the budget in time, I responded by telling them they brought empty documents.
“We are professionals here. We are grateful to centres like you that are non-governmental. You are independent. This is what we need, not bringing reports from World Bank or from any expert from diaspora that come to play on the intelligence of Nigerians. We want to thank you and assure you on behalf of the Senate that we are not only going to consider your submission, we are going to act on it because I have a personal interest on the MTEF this year.
“We want to prove to those outside the executive that we are Nigerians that have constitutional responsibility to look at what affects Nigerians with inputs from centres like you that will address the challenges that we have in this country and proffer solutions to them by experts who are Nigerians. Not people from outside that will be working with the economic theories that are alien and not minding what they send to us, not even minding whether the weather in Nigeria and the weather in Europe and America are not the same.
“So, even if you bring any important economic policy and put it in Nigeria, even the weather can tell you that it won’t and can’t work because they are not the same. So, the Senate will not rubber stamp the MTEF but will subject it to critical analyses. So, we appreciate your contributions and we are going to look into it. Our doors are open, the Eighth Senate is a different Senate,” he told the group.
Earlier, Onyekpere called on the National Assembly to ensure that the MTEF documents are submitted on time in future as it contains reports and statistics on the micro economics and how to grow the economy. He said that his group, the CSJ, reviewed the MTEF documents submitted by the Buhari administration and deliberated on its strengths and weaknesses.
The leader of the delegation said the MTEF is a constitutionally-prescibed exercise as the legislature is mandated to ensure that the framework is policy driven and that the revenue projections are realistic and realizable while also helping the National Assembly to be more proactive in its oversight duties to make the executive become more accountable.