13 February 2013

Nigeria: Why Jonathan Will Not Sign 2013 Budget This Week - Okonjo-Iweala

Photo: Vanguard
Budget 2013

THE Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that President Goodluck Jonathan will not sign the 2013 budget this week.

This is because discussion over the budget is still ongoing between the Executive and the National Assembly as much works remained to be done on the budget.

Okonjo-Iweala who disclosed this in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said further that reports making the round that the President will sign the budget this week are unrealistic.

The statement reads: "The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has clarified that talk of the President signing the budget this week is premature. Whereas discussions between the Executive and the National Assembly are ongoing in a cordial atmosphere, it is not yet clear when they will be concluded as much work remains to be done. Against this background, reports stating that the President will sign the budget this week are therefore not realistic."

Can the NASS veto Jonathan as 30 days expire today?

Today marks the end of 30 days after the National Assembly submitted the 2013 budget to President Goodluck Jonathan for assent as provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not surprisingly, Jonathan has withheld his assent to the budget document, complaining loudly that the estimates he submitted to the lawmakers have been significantly tampered with by the National Assembly.

The bone of contention is that the president sent in a proposal of N4.25 trillion to the lawmakers to rubber stamp but they decided to exercise their statutory function by padding it with additional N63 billion, thereby incurring the wrath of the President, who in anger returned the document to the leadership of the NASS.

Now, the mandatory 30 days provided for by the constitution has expired and Nigeria still doesn't know how the fragile economy that has failed in virtually all indices of growth would fair given the additional blow inflicted on it by the undue delay by the gladiators.

With the refusal of President Jonathan to sign the appropriation bill, the only route open to the NASS would be to veto the president by passing it as an Act of the Parliament with two thirds majority vote by the two chambers of the federal legislature.

Ratification of budget

Section 54 (4) amply authorises the NASS to bypass the president and pass such a bill if he fails to ratify a budget after 30 days.

However, competent sources in the NASS confirmed, yesterday, that the issue of the legislature vetoing President Jonathan was not being contemplated because the leadership had shown undue interest in padding the budget with projects worth billions of Naira for their respective constituencies. Many sources there said that none of the leaders of the NASS could sum up courage to challenge President Jonathan because of what they did to the budget after Jonathan had passed it on to the NASS for approval.

The anger of many members of the NASS is that the leadership did not carry them along in the project bonanza inserted by them in the padded budget but went ahead to allocate minor projects not above N50 million per member just to give the impression that all the members were involved in the padding.

But last night, indications emerged that the leadership had pleaded with the President to allow peace to reign and sign the budget as passed by the NASS so as not to expose them to public anger and ridicule.

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