Reps protests stall FCT’s N271.1bn budget

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A rancorous session at the House of Representatives on Thursday stalled the debate on the N271.1bn budget of the Federal Capital Territory.

Reps fightThe budget, which is for this year, had earlier passed the first reading at the House.

However, when it was tabled for debate and made possible for the second reading on Thursday, it was marred by protests from most of the members.

The bone of contention had to do with the “details” of the proposals, which the members claimed had not been made available to them.

The protests started soon after the House Majority Leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola, opened the debate by giving the highlights of the proposals.

As she made to resume her seat, members complained that they did not have the details of the budget. The opposition to the budget intensified after the Deputy House Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, attempted to rush the debate by urging members to support the passage.

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Ogor stated that all the capital projects of the FCT were tied to the budget, adding that there were also accumulated recurrent expenses to be settled.

But he was greeted with shouts of ’No, no, no way’ from the floor.

One member shouted, ‘Okay, let us go ahead and see. This budget will not pass.’

Amid the rancour, Akande-Adeola and the Chairman, House Committee on FCT, Mr. Emma Jime, appeared to trade blames over the content of the budget.

Both were seen gesticulating angrily on the floor as they denied responsibility for providing the details of the budget.

In a bid to rescue the situation from degenerating, the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, cleverly invoked the relevant rules of the House on procedure for debating money bills.

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He reminded the lawmakers that, under House rules, a member who wanted to contribute to debate on a money bill would first write his name and be allotted five minutes to speak.

“So far, nobody has indicated in writing that they want to speak on this budget. In order to comply with the rules, I, hereby, step down this debate till sometimes next week”, Tambuwal ruled, ramming his gavel.

He ignored further reactions from some members, who were calling for the debate to continue in a move to throw out the bill.

The block provisions in the budget showed that N62.8bn was earmarked for overhead costs; N49.2bn for personnel costs; and N159bn for capital projects.

Members were demanding a breakdown of the figures, a reason that sparked off the protests.

House spokesman, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, later said that there was nothing abnormal about Thursday’s development.

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He explained that it was normal for members to ask for details to be properly guided while considering the budget. Mohammed also denied that Akande-Adeola and Jime had any differences.

According to him, being an executive bill, it was the duty of the House leader to lead the debate, and not Jime’s. He added that Jime could only act in that capacity if the leader was unavailable.

“People were saying that they had not seen the details of the budget. That was why the speaker, in his wisdom, stood down the debate till another date,” he added.

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