President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday stood for 69 minutes (from 2.22pm to 3.31pm) to deliver his budget speech of over 6000 words to the joint session of the National Assembly.
Clad in light blue brocade, President Buhari entered the chamber at 2.02pm, accompanied by the Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun, the Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan, House leader Femi Gbajabiamila, among others
Buhari spoke extensively on the implementation of 2017 budget and the thrust of the 2018 proposal.
When Buhari spoke about the allocation for the zonal intervention programme, otherwise known as constituency projects, some of the lawmakers clapped, while others murmured.
At the tail end of the speech, by 3.24pm, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori sent a note to Senate President Bukola Saraki.
After reading it, Saraki broke into laughter before handing it over to the Speaker Yakubu Dogara who was also overwhelmed with laughter after reading it.
Lawmakers and all others present clapped immediately after the President’s speech.
At the end of the session, lawmakers besieged the walkway of the chamber to have a handshake with the President, thus delaying his departure for about 10 minutes.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo arrived at the chamber about 30 minutes before the commencement of the session and he sat close to Justice Mary Odili who represented Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN) Walter Onnoghen.
Also in attendance were the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum/Governor of Zamfara State Abdulaziz Yari, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the president’s Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, among others.
SGF’s phone number
Our correspondents report that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha was besieged by Reps who were seen requesting for his phone number before the commencement of the program.
There was general laughter as Rep Obinna Chidoka (PDP, Anambra) took about five minutes to deliver the opening prayers. The Muslim version of the prayer was delivered by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi).
Meanwhile, some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Reps who had planned to stage a protest during the president’s budget presentation failed to do so.
The PDP lawmakers who went into the chamber with placards carrying various inscriptions, before Buhari’s arrival, shelved the plan following last minute appeal by some of their colleagues, especially Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
The lawmakers’ grouse, it was gathered, was on the poor implementation of the 2017 budget, which is said to be about 15 per cent.
The budget, assented into law in June by the then acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, is to run up to next June.
Members of the House had earlier today, held a closed-door session for about two hours, where the leadership of the House appealed to the lawmakers not to protest.
The PDP lawmakers had designed placards with various inscriptions such as ‘Change The Change,’ ‘Implement 2017 Budget or Resign,’ ‘10% Implementation of Capital Projects is Wickedness.’
Our correspondent reports that after the closed session, some of the PDP members met at a separate venue, where they resolved to go ahead with the protest.