…Faults oil benchmark, zero allocation to SEC
•Lawmakers meet today over impasse
From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja President Goodluck Jonathan has told the leadership of the National Assembly that he will not sign the 2013 budget, Daily Sun learnt yesterday, even as the leadership of the Senate, that of House of Representatives and officials of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) will meet at 2pm today to reconcile faulty and bogus allocations in the budget. The meeting will hold at the Senate complex. The N4.987 trillion budget was passed by both chambers of the federal legislature on December 19, 2012. It was transmitted to the President for assent on January 14, this year.
However, despite the early passage , President Jonathan has declined to sign the Appropriation . Confirming that there are issues with the budget, Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamilla, said the President has picked a hole in the bill as passed by the National Assembly. He said the President has communicated to the leadership of the National Assembly on some grey areas causing his delay in signing it. A member of the House, who does not want his name mentioned, said that the President rejected the bill and returned it to the National Assembly because of the pegging of oil benchmark at $79 by the legislature. The executive had proposed $75, but that was rejected by the lawmakers.
He said the President was not happy over the zero allocation given to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the budget by the National Assembly. The latter had hinged the zero allocation to SEC on the continued stay in office of the Director-General, Ms. Arunma Oteh . The House had passed a resolution asking the President to sack her, but the recommendation is yet to be implemented. Another grey area, according to the lawmaker, is the N63 billion added to the original budget proposed by Jonathan. The Presidency equally rejected some aspects of the capital project vote particularly the National Assembly Constituency project. In view of the alleged poor-implementation of the capital projects in the 2012 budget, the National Assembly had rolled over the non-implemented aspects of the capital projects, especially the constituency projects into 2013.
The move was turned down by the President who described it as illegal. The National Assembly had approved N4,987,220,425,601 as the 2013 budget. It comprised N387,976,000,000 for statutory transfer; N591,764,000,000 to service debts N2,386,024,770,349 for recurrent (non-debt)expenditure while the balance of N1,621,455,655,252 is for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure. The figure passed by the two chambers was N63 billion more than N4.924 trillion original proposal presented to the joint session of the federal legislature by the President last October. On how the leadership of the National Assembly is taking the refusal to sign the budget bill, the lawmaker said the issues being raised by the President are being handled by the two chambers. He said:”This budget wahala ‘problem’ has come again.
The President has returned the 2013 budget that we passed before we went for Christmas break. Although the thing is yet to be made known officially to members, those who have seen it said SEC and benchmark issues were among the grey areas. Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, John Enoh, dismissed speculation that the budget has been rejected, saying the bill is still valid. He said: “All I know is that the budget cannot be returned through the window” The principal officers of the House held a marathon meeting on the matter yesterday. The House leadership met today to find a solution to the problem but we are yet to agree on the right step to take”, he said.