The Senate said on Wednesday that only those involved in budget preparation would accompany the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to the National Assembly on Thursday.
The President is expected to present the 2021 national budget estimates to the joint session of the federal parliament today.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, told his colleagues at plenary that the joint session would take place in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
“Because of COVID-19 pandemic, we have made arrangements to observe social distancing in the chamber.
“We also have to wear or face masks mandatorily. We are going to also abridge the event because we will be many there.
“So the entire event will last just about an hour. From the entry of the President into the chamber and addresses and the presentation and laying will be just an hour event.
“Mr President too this time around will not be accompanied by many people on the entourage.
“Only a few people – very key and relevant to budget – will accompany Mr President into the chamber,” Lawan said.
Also, the Senate spokesperson, Senator Ajibola Basiru, in a statement said a resolution was passed to that effect by the lawmakers.
“The use of face mask will be compulsory to admit participants into the chamber and only members of the National Assembly and duly accredited members of the Executive accompanying Mr President and other relevant officials of the National Assembly will be allowed into the chamber.
“The resolution further stated that persons in the entourage of Mr President must be officers who have relevant functions and responsibilities related to the presentation of the appropriation bill.
“The Senate resolution added that the joint session will be an abridged one that will last for a maximum duration of one hour.”
In the same vein, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, told his colleagues that the Thursday event would be “abridged” to allow the National Assembly comply with the safety protocols on COVID-19.
Gbajabiamila, after reading Buhari’s letter to notify the House of his intention to present the bill, said the event was expected to last one hour.
“The gallery will 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 ours. The Senate President’s remarks and my remarks will be abridged so that we can 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.”
Meanwhile, parts of the National Assembly Complex have been renovated ahead of the ceremony. Our correspondent observed on Wednesday that the maintenance department was fixing the lights at and replacing bulbs at the central lobby adjoining the Senate and the House chambers.
Cleaners were also seen tidying up the environment.