Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari may present the 2020 budget to the National Assembly by the end of September. The Speaker, who held a closed door with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, told State House Correspondents, that the move is to enable the lawmakers to pass the appropriation early and return the nation’s budget circle to December-January.
He reassured that the government of Nigeria would always stand with her citizens. Gbajabiamila said the only way to bring the budget circle back to January to December was for an early presentation of the budget, adding that they have discussed it with Mr President, “and we are working towards that.”
The speaker however, said he would not give a definite answer whether the National Assembly would get the 2020 budget proposal this month or early next month. “I cannot give a definite answer but I know the budget is going to come as early as possible. It maybe the end of this month or shortly thereafter, but I cannot give you a definite date. “But it’s going to be an early presentation so that we can pass the budget before the end of the year and return to the January to December circle,” he said. He also revealed that the issue of the $9.5 billion defaulted gas contract judgement awarded against Nigeria by a British court in favour of an Irish firm P&ID was discussed.
“The issue of the recent $9 billion award against Nigeria was discussed. I say that with a smile but not really smiling. Clearly we are in opposition to that and steps will be taken,” he added. On the xenophobic attacks on Nigerian citizens and the looting and burning of their shops in South Africa, the lawmaker said that Nigeria may cut her bilateral relations with South Africa. Asked if there were moves to cut bilateral ties with South Africa, Gbajabiamila said: “We are not there yet, nothing is off the table, we will take each day as it comes. As of now Mr. President has taken proactive steps in evacuating our citizens, recalling the High Commissioner, and other things will follow.
“I believe we will stand with and by Nigerians. The leadership of the House has issued a statement today (yesterday) and it is in tandem with what the executive is doing. We stand by our citizens that is our priority, to protect the constitution, to protect the welfare of the citizens and that is exactly what we are doing and that is what the president is doing.” He said that he was at the State House to engage with the President on the burning issues, stressing that in the last few days, Nigeria had witnessed unfortunate incidence involving her citizens in South Africa. He said: “As you are aware, I cut my trip to Tanzania short and came home with the hope of reconvening the house where we are going to address this very important issue. We have called that off because events have overtaken it; the government has taken proactive steps, the same steps we would have asked for. “We are all on the same page with the president and the government.
So, I came to fully discussed that with Mr. President. We discussed the issue of security, what have been happening in South Africa and other national issues that require the attention of both the legislature and the executive, and we had very fruitful discussions on those issues.”
On the insistence of the South African government not to pay compensation to the victims of the xenophobic attacks because payment of compensation was not contained in the country’s laws, the Speaker said that he had not heard such statement from the South African government. He said: “Well I haven’t heard that statement from South Africa, I don’t know if it is official or off the cuff statement by somebody. When it’s made official, we will take further steps. I am sure we will be on the delegation process in South Africa and probably other avenues that are international that we can pursue.”