By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki on Thursday saved the request by the executive for virement of N135 billion from the 2017 budget to execute certain priority projects from being thrown out.
When the request for virement came up for consideration at plenary, many of the senators kicked against it and described the request as “unconstitutional”.
However, the President of the Senate pleaded with his colleagues and eventually succeeded in getting the request to be referred to the committee on Appropriation.
Although Saraki acknowledged some of the arguments of his colleagues that certain level of commitment in budget implementation must first be shown before a request for virement, he however appealed for more support for the executive.
“Before virement could be considered, senate should have seen a more significant level of implementation, but this is in line with Senate’s commitment to give support to the executive as much as possible within the law,” he said.
He assured the Senators that he had taken note of their fears stressing that he would keep that in mind during the process of considering the virement request.
Speaking earlier, Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu described request for virement as unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Ekweremadu argued that if the government wanted to complete some of its priority projects, it should present a supplementary budget and not deny other sectors of projects already approved.
He maintained that the executive should either send a supplementary budget or wait till the next financial year to send a fresh budget and called on his colleagues to uphold the tenets of the constitution.
“Virement is unconstitutional. We must uphold the constitution. When reforming the budget, we should take note of this.
“You can only spend money either through normal budget or through supplementary budget.
“This executive seems not to be interested in the process of budget. They prefer virement. The Appropriation Act is a law. We cannot just approve virement and it is not even in our constitution.
“We need to tell the executive that they can ask for a supplementary budget and not for virement. If the executive wants money in the future, they should come through a supplementary budget,” he said.
Chairman of the Appropriation Committee Danjuma Goje also frowned at the seeming selective implementation of projects by the Federal Government.
He urged the senate to ensure that the government does not continue the trend of implementing selecti=ed priority project and deviating from the approved budget.
Most of the senators who contributed kicked against the request and demanded that it be thrown out.
However, the President of the Senate intervened and referred the request to the committee on Appropriation to report back to plenary.
The Senate received the request for virement on July 18, shortly before it went on recess.
The letter which was signed by then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, requested for virement of N135 billion to fund certain priority projects of the executive.