From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
Ashowdown is imminent between the Presidency and the National Assembly over the N100 billion constituency projects of federal lawmakers not incorporated in the 2013 Appropriation Bill. The projects are reportedly incorporated in the N1. 34 trillion capital projects of the 2012 budget. Daily Sun gathered that before the passage of the 2013 budget, there was a gentleman’s agreement between the National Assembly and the Presidency on the completion of constituency projects of federal lawmakers.
A senior federal lawmaker, who doesn’t want to be named, told Daily Sun that an agreement was struck with the Presidency that outstanding constituency projects would be completed within the 2012 budget, which ended on December 31.
“We had an understanding with the president that he would approve funds for the constituency projects and sign before the December 31, 2012 deadline,” the source said. But a counter-order, in the form of a circular, reportedly emanated from the Presidency, with the directive that all capital projects not completed before December 31, were statute-barred. A source on the Senate Appropriation Committee disclosed that federal lawmakers were in for a shocker in the New Year “because there was an agreement during the preparation of 2013 budget that the unreleased funds in the capital projects budget for 2012 would be extended till March 2013.
“We approved the new budget based on that agreement but when some of us approached some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) during the holidays about our projects and when they would be completed, we were told that a circular emanated from the Presidency, which directed that all funds for capital projects left unexecuted by December 31, 2012 should revert to the treasury. “A minister confirmed the existence of the circular and as it stands now, most of my colleagues are unaware as they are out of Abuja on holiday.
Projects in my constituency that have been left undone since 2008 will not be completed even this year because they were incorporated in the 2012 budget. Most of us didn’t pursue incorporation of outstanding constituency projects in the 2013 budget because of the understanding we had that they would be competed with the 2012 budget.” Meanwhile, more facts emerged at the weekend on some factors, mitigating against presidential assent to the N4.987 2013 Appropriation Bill.
Daily Sun, however, learnt that the clean copy of the Bill was actually forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan for assent by the close of work on December 21, 2012. But it went to the Presidency without accompanying details. A ranking Senator, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to do so, said: “It was not a deliberate error on the part of the National Assembly.” He offered more explanations: “We did send the 2013 budget to the president but it didn’t go with the details. We have now fine-tuned and worked out the details and by Tuesday, the final copy would have been concluded (and) the president should have the clean copy by Wednesday.
“Look, it’s nothing new that the details were not forwarded with the N4.987 trillion budget we passed on December 20. Remember that whenever the president submits the budget to a joint sitting of the National Assembly, it doesn’t come with the details. “He submits only the general principles and the details come later when the MDAs would show up before relevant committee to defend their budget estimates. The fine-tuning is going on as we speak. Late signing of the budget by the president will not affect the January-December fiscal calendar of the nation’s budget. We are committed to that and I believe so is the Presidency. On the hike of the oil benchmark from $75 to $79 in 2013 budget, the source said the “decision by the National Assembly is irreversible.”
He continues: “During consideration of the new budget, we told World Bank officials, who came to plead on behalf of the Presidency that we retain the $75 oil benchmark that there were other sources of income open to the Presidency, which are not even appropriated by the National Assembly. “The new oil benchmark of $79 is clearly implementable; it will not affect the implementation of the new budget,” he reiterated.
Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, explained last week that there was no friction between the National Assembly and President Jonathan. She confirmed that the signing of the budget was being delayed because the “details of the budget are usually very bulky. We need to get the details; once the details are sent to Mr. President, he will have to study it first as nobody will just expect him to sign.
They are just binding it.” The 2013 budget comprises N387,976,000,000 fund for statutory transfers, N591,764,000,000 for debt service, N2,386,024,770,349 for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure and N1,621,455,655,252 for capital expenditure.