Budget Row: Senate constitutes six-man harmonisation committee

Senate-Chamber21 November 2013, Abuja – Senate President David Mark Wednesday constituted a six-member conference committee with the mandate to harmonise differences in the crude oil benchmark price for 2014 budget with the House of Representatives.

The committee is headed by Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna North).
Other members of the committee are Senators Patrick Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo Central), Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom North- east), Bello Mohammed Tukur (Adamawa Central), Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) and Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South).

The committee will reconcile the disparate crude oil benchmarks approved by both chambers of the National Assembly.

Under the 2014 – 2016 Medium Term Economic Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) submitted to the National Assembly in September, the executive had proposed $74 per barrel as the 2014 budget benchmark.

However, following an understanding reached between the executive and legislature, a joint Senate and House Committee of Finance and Appropriation, raised the benchmark to $76.5 per barrel two weeks ago.

But whilst the Senate kept to its end of the bargain when it passed the MTEF/FSP last week, the House hiked the benchmark to $79 per barrel, much to the irritation of the executive.

The action of the House forced President Goodluck to defer the presentation of the budget on Tuesday, citing the failure of the two chambers of the National Assembly to harmonise their positions on the crude oil benchmark.

But with the composition of the Senate conference committee yesterday, the House is expected to also raise its own six-member committee to harmonise their positions and possibly pave the way for the president to present the budget next week.

There were also indications yesterday that the differences between the two arms would be resolved quickly as Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ahmad Muammadu Maccido, disclosed that the Senate and the House could resolve the issue this week and thus clear the coast for the president’s presentation next week.

“If we iron this out this week, Mr. President would be able to present the budget by next week,” he said.

Maccido added: “God willing, we will pass the budget this year. We have the rest of the year to do that. So I am sure we can do it.”

– This Day

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