The National Conference sitting in Abuja on Thursday resolved that henceforth, where either the President or the National Assembly fails to meet the timelines set for the passage of the Appropriation Bill, government will have to shut down operations.
Consequently, Conference agreed that Section 82 of the 1999 Constitution which deals with authorization of expenditure in default of appropriation be amended to stop any expenditure by government in the event of a delay in the passage of the budget with established timelines.
This was one of the decisions arrived at as delegates completed debate and adoption of resolutions on the Report of the Committee on Public Service headed by Engineer Ebele Okeke and Ambassador Adamu Aliyu as deputy chairman.
Conference had earlier agreed that Appropriation Bill for the coming year must be presented to the National Assembly on or before September 30 of every year while the process of passage by the National Assembly must be completed within two months for Presidential assent in December.
Three amendments were suggested to include that Section 59 (3) of the 1999 Constitution be amended to include that:
i. where the National Assembly fails to consider and pass the Appropriation Bill within the stated time frame, the bill shall be sent to Mr President for his/her assent.
ii. That failure to adhere to the time frame stated for the presentation of the Appropriation Bill shall form part of the definition of misconduct as stated in Sections 142 (11) and 188 (11) respectively.
iii. In the event that the budget is not approved by the 2nd of January, Government should operate on the basis of 75% of previous year’s Budget as an interim measure to avoid shut down.
All three suggestions were rejected as delegates insisted that failure to meet the deadlines by either of the parties should result in a shut-down of government, as no expenditure would be allowed as contained in Section 82 of the 1999 Constitution. This is to stem the current situation where both the Executive and the Legislature do not seem to be bothered about delays in budget presentation and approval. Giving conditions in a situation of failure was viewed as indulgence.
Conference at plenary has also approved amendment to Section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution which demands appointment by the President of at least one minister from each state of the federation.
Instead, it says the section should be reframed to indicate that the President shall appoint not more than one minister from each state of the federation; thus restricting the President from appointing six more ministers from each of the six geo-political zones as is the practice now.
The Conference however rejected a proposed amendment to the effect that 40% of the ministers so appointed by the President under the said section should be female.
Labour matters also received a boost on Thursday as delegates voted overwhelmingly to retain labour and minimum wage issues in the Exclusive as against an amendment that it should be moved to the Concurrent Legislative List.
The Committee had recommended that since the minimum wage is fixed at a level just above the poverty line, and it is the duty of the Federal Government to ensure that the pay of every Nigerian is above the poverty line, labour matters should retained in the Exclusive Legislative.
However, an amendment that minimum wage be raised from N18, 000 to not less than N40, 000 for public servants was roundly defeated by the delegates during consideration of recommendations.
Conference also resolved that henceforth, no agency of government should charge any fee, no matter how minimal, from fresh graduates before offering them employment in the public service.
It was also decided that to avoid the recent tragic incident where people died in the course of going to the stadium to attend employment interviews, recruitment stations should be set up at state levels for applicants.
A recommendation by the Committee that a new sub-section be introduced in the 1999 Constitution that would compel government to review public sector pay every five years to take cognizance of trends in the cost of living was also approved by the Conference and adopted.
Following a motion by 33 delegates moved by Alhaji Nurudeen Lemu, Conference resolved that the Federal Character Commission be renamed the Federal Character and Equal Opportunities Commission to put it in better stead to address issues of affirmative action for people living with disabilities.
The change is also expected to cater for issues regarding other vulnerable groups including ethnic and religious minorities, women, youth and other sectors of the society that are often excluded. Conference agreed that the upgrading will foster equity and create opportunities for the often excluded groups.
Meanwhile, the Committee on Science, Technology and Development has said that for effective contribution and synergy in the science and technology sector, and to ensure continuity and seriousness of purpose, the Presidential Council on Science, Technology and Innovation should be enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The report noted that in Nigeria, technological adaptation and innovation through research and development have been thwarted by very low and uncertain funding.
According to the Committee, traditionally, activities considered non-essential normally suffer during budget allocation exercises, particularly in lean times; it was its belief that research and development budget have suffered more than others.
For instance, it stated that at its peak in 1982, capital budget allocation to science and technology was N99 million; in 1983, it was N68 million; in 1984, it was reduced to a mere N14 million while in 1985; it went down to a miserable N7.5 million.
It said the way forward was for Nigeria to strengthen the basic science and technology infrastructure and modern research facilities needed to execute projects that can lead to innovation.
The Committee said government should fund science and technology development programmes up to 2% of the Federation Account while state governments should contribute to research by way of research projects.
Government, it said, should make it mandatory for every industry to establish research units, contribute money to the Science and Technology Development Trust Fund, and give scholarships to individuals and institutions to carry out research
It called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the revitalization of vital infrastructure considered critical and strategic to manufacturing sector.
These include power generation, transmission and distribution; steel industries and machine tools; and national metallurgical development centre; among others.
The Committee observed that Nigeria is yet to implement the African Union resolution that a minimum of one per cent GDP of nations should be dedicated to research and development purposes.
It called for increased campaign to create public awareness in science and technology and their vital role in national development through all possible means, including the media, research and development.
The Committee, headed by Dr Daniel Maddo and Chief Raymond Dokpesi as deputy, said recognizing the high volume of applicable output of research and development activities in Nigeria that have failed to address socio-economic development issues, there must be a deliberate strategy to reverse the situation.
It said the Nigerian Academy of Science and the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, because of their linkages as professional bodies should, through a deliberate policy be engaged in order to enhance the impact of science and technology output on the economy.
To ensure the rapid growth of science and technology, the Committee recommended promotion of academic industry linkage programmes to enhance knowledge sharing through mandatory exposure of academics to industry in the design of programmes in educational institutions
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS