Weeks of deadlock between the Presidency and the National Assembly leadership on the 2013 Appropriation Bill came to an end with N4.99trillion-naira budget signed into law on Tuesday by President Goodluck Jonathan at a ceremony attended by the President of the Senate, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
This followed an agreement between the president and the leadership of the National Assembly for the legislators to consider the president’s observations on the budget by the executive through a legislative action.
According to a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, at the end of the signing ceremony which was not open to the media, the signing is based upon consultations and an agreement between the Executive and the Legislature.
The statement also quoted President Jonathan reassuring Nigerians that the consultations had been in the best interest of the country, and in pursuit of understanding and mutual cooperation between both arms of government.
“As part of the understanding reached with its leadership, the observations of the executive arm of government about the Appropriation Bill, as passed by the National Assembly, will be further considered by the National Assembly through legislative action, in order that the 2013 Appropriation Act is implemented effectively and smoothly in all its aspects,” the statement said.
The statement further noted that the administration remained committed to the transformation of the country and the effective and efficient delivery of service for the benefit of all citizens.
The statement directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government to work hard to ensure that all the services, projects and programmes spelt out in the budget are delivered successfully and on schedule, despite the delay in its enactment.
Also present at the ceremony were the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of National Planning, Dr Shamsudeen Usman; Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Affairs, Senator Joy Emordi; the Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr Bright Okongwu and the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Professor Nwanze Okidegbe.
The President had refused to sign the bill after the National Assembly inflated the budget from N4.92trillion to N4.98trillion, beyond what the Executive considered possible to implement.
Also, the President had claimed that they were mistakes in the details as well as the refusal of the National Assembly to allocate funds to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC and the increase in the benchmark for oil revenue from $75 per barrel to $79 per barrel prevented the bill from being signed into law.
The signing of the bill by the President averts a constitutional crisis, as he would have been expected to re-present it or present another proposal to the National Assembly if the 30 working days deadline had lapsed, according to Section 59 (4) of the Constitution.
A constitutional lawyer in the National Assembly said officials in the Presidency were ignorant of the fact that the constitutional provisions on appropriation were different from those relating to other bills.
Whereas Section 58 of the Constitution which talks about ordinary bills allows the President to wield a veto on a bill passed by the National Assembly and allow the National Assembly to override the veto, Section 59 (4), which talks about money bills, mandates the President to re-present the budget where he applies the veto.
“It was in the best interest of the President that he signed the bill before him else we would have headed into a constitutional crisis where the budget would have been taken from him and he would no more have a say on it.
“Should he have failed to sign it, he would have been bound to physically re-present the bill to the National Assembly and from then, he would lack any power to make an input again,” the source said.