House won’t shift ground on budget

The House of Representatives will not shift its position on Budget 2013, its spokesman Zakari Mohammed said yesterday.

Zakari Mohammed

President Goodluck Jonathan is holding back his assent to the bill as passed by the National Assembly on the grounds of disagreement over the way the lawmakers tampered with what he forwarded to them.

But the lawmakers yesterday promised to take a definitive action, in whatever form would be, next week, should the President continue to withhold his assent.

The lawmakers reaffirmed their determination not be shy of applying the provisions of the constitution to override the President’s veto.

The House said it would not change its position on allocation for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the rollover of capital component of 2012 budget and the quarterly budget performance briefing by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Mohammed told reporters that up till Wednesday, the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly were still consulting on the budget.

“As at the time we were passing the budget for 2013 by Christmas, the fourth quarter allocation for 2013 was just released and if you are now going to mop up the funds by December 31, 2012, what happens to the funds?

“The tradition is that people would just misapply the funds and they will end up in private pockets. What can they accomplish with the funds within two weeks?

“So, our position is that why not give the agencies some time, so that the monies can be better applied in the needed areas. That is the spirit behind our position on that”.

The House Spokesman added: “Another area of contention is the matter of quarterly briefing by the Minister of Finance.

“The National Assembly is asking for this because we have been variously accused of not doing our oversight function properly and we are now saying quarterly, let the Finance Minister come around and brief us about budget performance.

“The other area is that of benchmark. We have heard people saying we padded the budget and that was the reason for the delay but this is not so because before anything could be done, it has to be brought before the House again”.

The lawmaker pleaded with Nigerians to be objective while following developments on the budget document, adding that the legislators’ stance was for the common good.

“ I want to say that all the decisions taken by the House were in the interest of the generality of Nigerians and protect the budget and protect the President himself too.

“This is because as the President, when you initiate a budget and it is not completed then you have not reached your destination, it is only when it is completed that you can say you have delivered.

“The budget will be taken seriously and the implementation will also be taken seriously”.

According to him, the expiration of the 30-day window stipulated by the Constitution for the legislators to override the President’s veto has not elapsed.

“We have to be guided that the 30 days we are talking about here is 30 working days and since we don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays, the window has not closed.

“However, hopefully by next week, something is expected to have happened on it. It is either the President will assent to it or the National Assembly will veto it.

“But I want to assure you that the National Assembly is not afraid to apply the provisions of the Constitution on the issue because the budget is about the generality of Nigerians.

“However we have to explore and exhaust all available options for resolution of the grey areas because at the end of the day, the budget is the product of the people of Nigeria, who might suffer unduly until it is committed to law.

“As the representatives of the people, we will always strive to do the right thing by following the procedures”.

The Nation

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