15 February 2013

Nigeria: 2013 Budget - Senate Gives Jonathan Tuesday Deadline

Photo: Vanguard
Budget 2013

A full-blown war is brewing between the Senate and President Goodluck Jonathan. A struggle may ensue when the lawmakers begin the process of overriding his veto of the 2013 budget bill on Tuesday next week.

The Senate, sources exclusively disclosed to LEADERSHIP, has chosen Tuesday next week as deadline for the bill to be assented to by the president or they would invoke the necessary constitutional provisions backed by two-thirds majority of members to override his veto.

But an obviously jittery President Jonathan, according to the source, has called for the clean copy of the bill and may sign it before the deadline to mitigate the already damaged relationship with the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

It was learnt that senators were prepared to override the president's veto yesterday with an overwhelming majority that surpassed two-thirds of members, but for the intervention of the leadership of the Senate which quickly consulted and informed the arrowheads that they should drop the plan as the president had called for a "clean copy" of the budget bill between today and tomorrow, and that it was enough signal that the budget could be signed into law at last.

The source said, "We are told that he may sign the budget before the close of weekend and, as such, we must stand down the process, but if by Tuesday the situation remained the same, then, we have no option left except to override the veto."

LEADERSHIP had exclusively reported on Tuesday that the passage of the 2013 budget might be marred by a constitutional crisis.

Statutorily, the time for the president to assent to the bill lapsed yesterday, exactly a month after the bill was formally tabled before the president.

The atmosphere, LEADERSHIP learnt, was charged and senators came to the chambers ready to commence the process of overriding the budget veto. The action could have culminated into an open confrontation between the president and the National Assembly, which might have eventually led to a call for the president's impeachment.

The source said the signal for the clean copy was relayed apparently in realisation of the import of overriding the president's veto, a day after the senators handed him an ultimatum to sack the chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, for flouting its summons.

The budget has been the source of a sour relationship between both arms of government, but there is an indication that the trouble would come to a hilt on Tuesday: the senators have vowed not to back down if by Tuesday the president still withheld his assent.

The source further disclosed that the lawmakers were more incensed by the choice of words used by the minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She had said that "those who think that the 2013 budget will be signed this week should know that it is not possible, because more work needs to be done on it; so it is not possible for the president to sign the budget bill this week".

It was even learnt that the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives had advised the president to sign the bill and send in his observations if any or, better still, forward a supplementary budget if that too is necessary.

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