Reps suspend MTEF meeting over Emefiele, Baru, others’ absence

The joint committee set up by the House of Representatives to work on the 2019-2021 Medium- Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday suspended its sitting as invited Federal Government officials failed to show up.

The committee stated that the non-appearance would further delay the passage of the 2019 Appropriation Bill and the MTEF.

Those who were expected at the meeting included the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma; Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr Maikanti Baru; Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.); Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Babatunde Fowler; and the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele.

The ministers and heads of agencies, however, sent representatives, who the lawmakers dismissed as lacking the authority to make submissions on the key economic assumptions in the MTEF.

The panel is made up of House Committees on Appropriations, Finance, Customs; National Budget and Research Office; and Aids, Loans and Debt Management.

Making his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Mr Babangida Ibrahim, who is the chairman of the panel, expressed the lawmakers’ displeasure with the Federal Government officials who failed to attend the meeting.

Ibrahim noted that while the National Assembly had resolved to pass the national budget as soon as possible, the non-appearance by the key officials in the executive would delay work on the MTEF, which would consequently frustrate timely passage of the budget.

He said, “Unfortunately, I seek the opinion of my colleagues, that in the absence of the key ministers and heads of agencies whether we can continue or adjourn and insist (on their attendance) because of the importance of their presence. What national assignment can be more important than the budget? This is where we are. If they are not here, then what are we doing here?”

Commenting, a member of the panel and Chairman, Committee on Insurance, Mr Olufemi Fakeye, berated the officials for failing to appear before the panel, stating that the National Assembly should not be blamed for any delay that might arise on the budget.

He called for the adjournment of the sitting, since the representatives sent by the officials would not be able to make official statements on the key assumptions and parameters of the economy.

The sitting was adjourned sine die, pending the determination of a new date.

Addressing journalists after the meeting, Ibrahim said, “You can see that the House has sent a notice of invitation to all the stakeholders and MDAs involved in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper so that we can discuss it against the backdrop of the preparation of the 2019 budget.

“We are here today but unfortunately, we discovered that almost of all the heads of the agencies that are key in discussing the MTEF are not here. The Minister of (Budget and) National planning is not here, the Minister of Finance is not here, the Accountant-General of the Federation is not here, the Comptroller of Customs is not here, the Chairman of FIRS is not here, GMD of NNPC is not here, the Director of DPR is not here and the CBN is not here.

“In fact, almost all of them (are not here). The only person that is available is the DG of Debt Management Office. So, you can see that we cannot proceed to discuss the MTEF in the absence of these key players. That is why we have to adjourn the meeting. We are going to give them a new date next week. We hope they will attend to our invitation.”

Asked what was the implication of the adjournment on the MTEF and 2019 budget, Ibrahim said, “The implication is that it will delay the preparation of the 2019 budget. That is the implication.”

(PUNCH)

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