(By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye – ABUJA) Senate President Bukola Saraki has expressed optimism that the 2017 budget will be passed sooner than the 2016 budget was, and without rancour. He gave his assurance when he spoke with State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
Saraki, who was in the Villa to consult with the President on a number of national issues, including the budget, also said the National Assembly is expecting to pass the budget in the next 10 days.The Federal Executive Council, presided over by President Buhari, had on Wednesday approved the 2017 budget preparatory to its transmission to the National Assembly for its consideration and approval. Saraki assured that the Senate was ready to receive the 2017 budget “We are ready. Once the document comes to us, we are ready,” he said. “I think this time around, a lot of work has taken place behind the scene. There is a lot of more collaboration and you will see the result of that in the time frame it will take after the President will have presented it.” When asked if the issues surrounding the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) that led to the Senate describing it as “empty” has been resolved, Saraki replied: “That is still a work in progress. I am sure that very soon that matter will be concluded. But I am very optimistic that this year’s budget will be passed much more sooner than what we saw in the past.” Asked to disclose the details of the budget, the Senate President said: “Well, I haven’t seen the details until the President lays it. I am sure within the next 10 days it will be presented.” On the crisis generated by the defection of Senator Yele Omogunwa to the All Progressive Congress (APC), Saraki said: ”It is democracy at work. The opposition party has its views about the defection of a senator to the APC. Normalcy has been restored to the house and we are one family again.”