2013 Budget: Jonathan Cautious Of Impeachment Threat From National Assembly

The Herald NG
6 Min Read

It has been gathered that the delay from President Goodluck Jonathan in signing the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law was his fear was that the budget law was filled with traps.

Jonathan’s major grouse with the budget since it was passed by the National Assembly sixty-nine days ago and transmitted to him on the 14th of January, 2013 is that it could become a weapon in the hands of the National Assembly against him and his administration if he does not implement the budget to the letter.

According to competent sources, the clause that was causing the President so much worry was the one that states: “That the National Assembly is authorised by law to monitor and ensure that the Executive implements the budget to the letter as passed by legislature.”

One of the sources said although that clause has always been a feature of budget laws, the Presidency is being cautious with the National Assembly members, especially the House of Representatives, whose leadership, the Presidency alleges, has been infiltrated with members of the opposition who could exploit the loopholes to impeach the President.

It was learnt that Jonathan had confronted the leadership of the National Assembly, asking them to choose between an outright return of the bill to them or a compromise reached on a supplementary budget.

It was due to the President’s reservations and the need to sort out irreconcilable differences with the lawmakers that made the signing to be done in secret as opposed to the tradition of open signing.

State House correspondents, who had gathered in the conference room of the President’s office, were asked to leave and await a statement on the signing of the budget following a last minute brief meeting between members of the Economic Team on one hand and the leadership of the National Assembly on the other, with Jonathan in another room.

It was gathered that the short meeting was to enable both parties shift ground on the contentious areas of the budget. However, it did not yield much result due to the hardened stance of both parties.

It was learnt that while the President reluctantly accepted the $79 per barrel oil benchmark and the zero allocation budget to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, on the understanding that the commission could still generate and fund its operations from the stock market, he rejected the lawmakers’ condition that their 2012 constituency projects be rolled over into the current budget.

It is the rollover of the projects that caused serious distortion to the budget, forcing the President to withhold his assent to it for more than two months.

Jonathan’s argument was that doing so would make the budget unimplementable, and will worsen hardship in the country. He was also said to have argued that it would pave the way for Nigerians to blame him for non-performance, thereby affecting the image of his administration, as the 2015 election draws closer.

He expressed a preference that unfinished projects be forwarded to the Ministry of Special Duties for implementation, a suggestion the lawmakers grudgingly agreed to.

It was understood that what the President did to the budget on Tuesday night in the name of signing the 2013 budget into law, was more of a ceremonial function to nip in the bud the threat by the more radical House of Representatives to veto him and cause more friction between them and the Presidency while “an acceptable budget” would soon be sent to the National Assembly by way of a supplementary budget by the President.

Both parties are said to have reached an agreement that the Presidency would use the supplementary budget to delete items which the Executive believes it cannot implement rather than openly accusing the Legislature of padding the budget.

On their own part, the lawmakers are to give the supplementary budget accelerated passage for the President to sign once it is transmitted to him, in contrast to the delay the current fiscal bill underwent.

The President had distanced himself from the 2013 budget when the National Assembly added N63 billion to the figure presented to them and months of several meetings on the matter did not produce any result even with the passage of the 30-day deadline set by the law.

But on Tuesday, the House of Representatives, regarded as the hotbed of opposition by the government, threatened to begin the process of overriding the President on the budget, only for Jonathan to announce that he had signed the fiscal bill into law with a proviso that it would be sent back  to the National Assembly  “for further legislative work.”

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