President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday declined assent to a bill seeking to fund the completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company, which was forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February this year.

The President equally declined assent to seven other bills, including the controversial National Housing Fund Bill, which was passed recently by the federal parliament.

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, disclosed this while reading at plenary separate letters by the President informing the Senate of his decisions.

Buhari, according to the letters, cited several grounds, ranging from infractions on extant laws, duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies, to financial constraints for refusing assent to the bills.

Giving reasons for rejecting the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill, the President said voting $1bn to the steel rolling mill from the Excess Crude Account, as proposed by the bill, was not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.

“The nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long-term social and economic impact that the funds can be alternatively deployed towards.

“Bills, which seek to make appropriation of revenues to fund public expenditure should be consolidated in the annual Appropriation Act, such that the proposals pass through the traditional scrutiny that budget proposals are subjected to by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.

“Furthermore, as the Excess Crude Account Funds belong to the federation, it would be proper to consult with the National Economic Council where the states are represented.

“Relevant stakeholders, such as the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development, Industry, Trade and Investment, were not fully consulted.

2018 Democracy Day speech, Nigeria, President Buhari
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President Buhari; credit: Twitter/NGRPresident

“The inputs of key stakeholders are necessary to create the optimal legal and regulatory framework, as well as institutional mechanism to adequately regulate the steel sector,” the President said.

In another letter of refusal of assent dated March 27, 2019, President Buhari cited provisions contained in Section 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as the major reason for refusing assent to it.

He added that if signed into law, the agency would have similar objectives as that of the Bank of Industry, particularly with regard to the funding of Small and Medium Enterprises.

“Accordingly, it is important to streamline its functions to avoid a duplication or overlap of functions with other government institutions performing similar functions aside the likelihood of increasing public recurrent expenditure by the proposed creation of new public sector bodies,” he added.

Other bills rejected by the President included the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018; the Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2018; and the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018.

He also declined assent to the National Housing Fund Bill 2018; the National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018; and the National Bio-technology Development Agency Bill 2018.

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