Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Anxiety As Senators, Reps Refuse Jonathan's Request to Alter Budget

Anxiety gripped presidency officials and caucus leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the National Assembly, yesterday, following the rejection of the alterations sought by the presidency into the N4.798 trillion 2013 budget.

The legislators at an interactive meeting with officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government had bluntly refused the entreaties to alter the allocations to some of the MDAs as requested by the president before his assent.

The refusal of the legislators was despite proof of mistakes made by the National Assembly in the compilation of the details. In some instances, allocations made for personnel of some MDAs were lumped with capital leaving little or no provisions for personnel.

President Jonathan had withheld assent on the budget which was forwarded to him on January 14 on the strength of objection raised by a senior minister of the administration who insisted that the corrections be made in details before the assent.

President Jonathan was said to have, based on the promptings of the senior minister, insisted that corrections be made in details before his assent.

Besides, the president had at a meeting with the National Assembly leadership prior to last week's meetings with the MDAs also raised the issue of the benchmark and the non- provision of funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, on account of the retention of Ms Aruma Oteh as director-general. The National Assembly leadership had politely declined the request on Oteh and the benchmark, saying that the two issues were non-negotiable but agreed to look again at the mistakes in the details of the budget.

However, at the interactive meeting with the legislators which took place in the Senate building last week, the legislators were said to have bluntly refused to effect the alterations as they insisted that whatever observations the president has should come in the form of an amendment bill.

A source familiar with the discussions revealed that the legislators are insisting on the adoption of due process in effecting the corrections, affirming that once the budget is passed the only way it can be altered was through the process of amendment.

Presidency officials and party leaders in the National Assembly were said to be anxious over the next line of action on the budget which would now depend on the president's decision.

Legislators from the opposition parties had given their intention to initiate moves to override a veto should the president refuse to give his assent to the budget by February 13 which would be 30 days after the budget was forwarded to him.

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