Leadership (Abuja)

11 February 2013

Nigeria: NASS to Resist Alteration of 2013 Budget

The executive and the presidency may be heading for another showdown as opposition members have vowed to resist any move by the presidency to alter the 2013 budget to remove constituency projects.

This is just as members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives have accused members of the opposition of trying to cause problems by playing politics with the president's delay in signing the 2013 budget.

Speaking exclusively to our correspondent, minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila said though it was the president's right to have reservations about the budget as passed by the House, the lawmakers are empowered as elected members, to make input that would directly affect the well-being of their constituents.

"From what we hear, the president has certain reservations on the provision of the budget. I cannot and nobody should query with a president that has reservations with a budget. There is nothing wrong with that but then, it depends on what these reservations are. If they are well founded, tenable reservations, then it is for us to look at it again and consider his reservations. It is all about working together.

"If it is a question of constituency projects, I don't know that I personally will shift ground on that, I don't know about the rest of the House. Because there is no way an arm of government that is elected and in touch with the people will not have an input in the budget. It is not acceptable in Nigeria, it is not acceptable anywhere in the world."

He however debunked speculations that the budget was returned to the National Assembly, saying that "No formal letter has been received or it would have been read on the floor of the House, but there have been discussions and communications have been made on the matter".

But speaking to journalists over the weekend, leader of Renaissance Group in the House, Hon Kaka Kyari Gujbawu (PDP, Borno) said the minority caucus was just trying to cause problems where none exists by capitalising on the ongoing budget talks between the legislature and the executive.

He said there was no friction between the two arms of government over the budget while pointing out that the president had the right to examine the budget as passed by the National Assembly and express concern about areas he was not comfortable with.

"Mr. President also naturally caused his experts in government to advice him on the amendments and questions were raised about the budget and they sent the document back to us. I think it is a very healthy process for us to arrive at a perfect or near perfect document to fix our country."

Commenting on the threat issued last week by the minority members of the House to consider overriding President Jonathan's veto if he continues to delay the signing of the 2013 budget into law, he said, " I think we should not politicise this process which is the normal and healthy process in budget formulation anywhere in the world, in any kind of democracy. My own quarrel is that some members of the opposition are trying to politicise an otherwise healthy process in any budget process all over the world. We should stand against that; we should condemn that without being equivocal about it."

Accusing the minority caucus of trying to distort the economic plan of the ruling party, the lawmaker added that though the threats were empty, their colleagues in the opposition were making offensive statements that will be to the detriment of Nigerians.

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