Following that absence of clarity Wednesday afternoon as to who would sign the 2017 budget after its transmission to the executive by the National Assembly, the presidency last night said Acting President Yemi Osinbajo would assent to this year’s spending bill.
Reacting to the remark by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting said that the federal government would take a decision on who will sign 2015 budget when it is transmitted, Osinbajo’s media aide, Laolu Akande, took to his Twitter handle @kandeoj late last night, saying his principal will assent to the budget if he’s satisfied with the budget.
“Just so we are clear: when the time comes and if he’s satisfied, Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to 2017 budget,” Akande tweeted.
Mohammed caused the confusion on who would assent to the budget while responding to questions from State House correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The question was obviously prompted by President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence from the country. Buhari is in the United Kingdom on a medical follow-up for an undisclosed ailment.
However, before his departure he transmitted a letter to the National Assembly handing over to his deputy, Prof. Osinbajo.
When he was pressed to clear the air on the knotty issue, Mohammed said the decision would only be taken after the budget is transmitted by the National Assembly.
“When it is submitted to the presidency, that decision will be taken,” he said.
Mohammed also disclosed that FEC was yet to study the advanced copy of the budget already transmitted by the legislature to the executive.
He pointed out that the executive would compare it with the spending submitted to the legislature by the president last December, explaining that the review was necessary to find out if there are discrepancies between what was submitted and what was eventually passed.
The National Assembly had increased the budget by N143 billion while it increased its own initial budget of N115 billion by N10 billion.
Mohammed said the executive would commence the review of the budget when the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, makes copies of the advanced document that has been transmitted to him available to all ministers.
He said the entire document was yet to be transmitted by the National Assembly.
“I think it was only this morning that the Minister of Budget and National Planning informed council that the budget has been passed. He has not sent to us individually the copies of the budget passed.
“We now need to look at it against what we sent and if there is any discrepancy, then we’ll report back to the Minister of Budget and National Planning for harmonisation.
“The Minister of Budget and National Planning has received an advanced copy and that is what we need to look at. It has not been transmitted officially,” he said.
Meanwhile, the federal government has constituted what it termed an Ebola Preparatory Working Group headed by one Dr. Obasanya with the mandate to review all protocols and lessons from Nigeria’s response to the last Ebola outbreak in the country and simultaneously prepare the foundation that the country will build on handling the disease in the event of another outbreak.
Making this disclosure during the briefing, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said the decision was taken during an emergency meeting held on Monday at the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), following the recent outbreak of the deadly disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He said the meeting, which was called to discuss the preparedness of Nigeria towards the outbreak, was attended by representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), and the United States Centre for Disease Control, among others.
He also said since the Ebola disease was not indigenous to Nigeria, it could only be imported into the country through the land, sea and airports, explaining that since there are no direct flights to Nigeria from the DRC, it was agreed that all passengers should henceforth be screened.
“The team is working to compile a list of trained Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) case managers and get in immediate contact with them. We are also identifying isolation wards that can be used immediately, especially in Abuja and Lagos,” he added.
Adewole also disclosed that the death toll from the Meningitis outbreak in the north had risen to 1,112, adding that in the last five weeks, there has been a reduction in the number of cases reported.
Also briefing the press, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, said FEC considered the provision of road infrastructure in five areas in Karu, a satellite town in FCT, at the cost of N15.6 billion. He said the projects’ execution would last for 15 months.