Tug-of-War Over 2013 Budget


The Presidency and the National Assembly pull the proposed amendment of the 2013 budget towards different directions

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Jul. 8, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan and his economic team must be waiting for the Goddot if they are expecting the National Assembly to work on the amendment of the 2013 budget he sent to the legislators in March. A member of the House of Representative, who wishes anonymity told Realnews, that the legislators have closed the chapter on budget 2013 which the president had signed into law.

The National Assembly passed a N4.987 trillion budget for the 2013 fiscal year December 20, 2012. It took the president more than two months to sign it because of disagreement over the increase in the N4.6 trillion budget which he originally sent to the National Assembly. In addition, there were issues raised over constituency projects, and no budgetary allocation to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.  “We are not interested in the amendment. The Appropriation Bill is an act of parliament. We are not ready to look at the proposed bill. We have our issues on the SEC. It is not because of Aruma Oteh. We have different views. We are sympathetic to her cause but we can’t go against the leadership of the National Assembly,” a member of the House of Representatives told Realnews on phone.

David Mark

According to the legislator, “It is difficult for the National Assembly to reverse its position on Oteh because of the precedence that has been set with the sacking of the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, director-general at the instance of the National Assembly.  On the other hand, you can’t stop SEC from functioning because of one person. It is difficult. We think the president has signed it (budget) into law. We cannot do any amendment. They can bring a supplementary budget. We cannot touch the amendment sent to us by the president,” the legislator said.

However, last week, it appeared that the hard stance of both the executive and the legislature over the budget is melting. The two arms of government which had been gaming each other, attempted to reach an understanding over the issues where they disagreed.  The National Assembly has asked the president to state his priority areas in the document sent to it for amendment, stating that it cannot go through the whole budget all over again.

Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, confirmed that the Senate leadership had asked the presidency to list priority areas in the budget amendment. That list of priority areas was sent to the National Assembly on Wednesday, June 19. Ahmed Maccido, Senate Appropriation committee chairman confirmed receipt of the priority areas and added that the committee has commenced work on them.

Joy Emordi, former senator and special adviser to the president on National Assembly Matters, at a press briefing in Abuja, urged the lawmakers to work on the amended 2013 budget. She said that President Jonathan would be incapable of realising the objectives set in the current fiscal year without the passage of the amended budget. “I appeal to the National Assembly to once again, exhibit uncommon leadership by expediting legislative action on the grey areas of 2013 Appropriation Act to ensure that we have a first rate budget that addresses undesirable issues while also actualising the aims and objectives set out in the current fiscal year.

Joy Emordi

Prior to the rapproachment, which came after so much muscle flexing between the two arms of government especially with the presidency taking over the implementation of constituency projects, many Nigerians were worried about the fate of the 2013 budget which has been in abeyance. Although some Nigerians argued that it was wrong to say that no one knows exactly what is happening to the budget of 2013, others think that the delay in the amendment of the budget does not in any way stop its implementation. Lawson Omokhidion, a financial consultant, told Realnews said that the 2013 budget which has been passed into law has not been truncated by the amendment. “Amendment does not stop implementation of the budget. Ordinarily, I don’t see how it will impact on the signed budget. The budget has not been truncated by the proposed amendment. The National Assembly should take its time. Implementation of the budget should proceed while waiting for the National Assembly’s Amendment. Now is June, they ought to release half of the budget but they will wait until December to release what they will share,” Omokhidion said.

Chinwoke Mbadinuju, former governor of Anambra State, said that it was possible for laymen not to know what is happening to the budget. “But between the Senate and the House of Representatives, they all knew the name of the game they were playing. The constitution gives the legislature the power to oversee money bills while the Executive branch spends the money approved by the legislature. This is what they call checks and balances with the Senate handling its own bit and the Judiciary doing their function of adjudication. Democracy is a beautiful process where they know their rights and their reponsibilities.

Chinwoke Mbadinuju

“But this time around, they have been doing a tossing game: from the Presidency to the NASS – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Executive prepared the budget for expenditures and salaries. The House did not approve SEC’s budget to enable Ms. Aruma Oteh to continue in office. The Presidency said the issue was within its competence to handle to which the House again said no, and then gave no money at all for SEC to at least pay salaries of the workers. This is one out of other reasons the NASS will not accept or deal with the Executive.”

According to Mbadinuju, it is not known if the workers are still being paid and from which fund, or are the workers still working without pay? What will happen if neither side is willing to back down?  Nigeria is waiting and foreigners are also watching the drama.  It is hard to apportion blame in this type of  ‘game’.  But when two elephants fight, as in this case, it is the grass that suffers.”

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