There was heavy presence of security operatives in and around the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, where the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is presenting the 2021 Appropriation Bill before the parliament today.
The ceremony began at 11 am.
There was more deployment of officers of the Department of State Services, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Federal Road Safety Corps and sergeants-at-arms, who manned strategic points.
While shops and other private businesses including banks and restaurants are closed for the day, only a few workers are allowed in.
They are to wear a special accreditation tag along with their identity cards.
Those allowed to enter, including journalists, have their names confirmed on the lists provided at three points.
Only journalists from television stations, who will broadcast the event live, are allowed into the House of Representatives chamber.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the National Assembly is ready to pass the 2021 Appropriation Bill before the end of 2020.
Lawan made this known in his opening remarks before Buhari was called to lay the national budget before the joint session of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly is ready to pass the 2021 budget before the end of the year, by the grace of God,” Lawan said.
Members of the Senate are to move to the House chamber which is larger and usually used for joint sessions.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had on Wednesday said the ceremony would be “abridged” to allow the National Assembly to comply with the safety protocols on COVID-19.
Gbajabiamila had said the event was expected to last one hour, disclosing that the Presidency had been notified to cut short the ceremony.
He had said, “On tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) presentation of budget by Mr President, we will as best as possible comply with the COVID-19 protocol. In other words, that is to say we will try as much as possible to space out. The gallery will also be used for the sitting. Everybody is expected to have a mask as we always do.
“More importantly, it (the event) is going to be abridged, even the President’s presentation will not be the usual one hour to one and a half hours. The Senate President’s remarks and my remarks, all these will be abridged so that we can try as much as possible to round off everything within the hour.
“You are all aware that it is part of the COVID-19 protocol that advises that you don’t stay too long in an enclosed space with a large crowd. So, it is not going to be a presentation as usual.”
Later on, Gbajabiamila had urged members to either cut short or speed up their presentations during the proceedings to allow early adjournment in order to “fumigate this place in preparation for budget presentation tomorrow.”
The Speaker also urged the lawmakers to be in the chamber by 10am ahead of the commencement of the ceremony at 11am.