18 February 2013

Nigeria: We Are Yet to Decide On Overriding Jonathan's Veto On 2013 Budget - Reps

Amidst claims that the Senate will override President Goodluck Jonathan's veto this week if he did not sign the 2013 budget into law, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Mr John Owan Enoh, has said the Green chamber was not yet considering the option but presently pursuing deliberations on grey areas as perceived by the executive.

Enoh, who was speaking at a media chat with House of Representatives reporters at the weekend also said the National Assembly was not going to court with the executive for interpretation of the constitution to state who among the two arms, has the power over the budget since it has already been clearly defined that the Nigerian legislature is a "budget making one".

He added that to this end, the National Assembly has enormous constitutional powers that required no further court interpretation to override President Goodluck Jonathan's veto on the 2013 Appropriation Bill.

"We (the National Assembly) have no doubt on the constitutional powers we have, and so would not approach the court," he said, while faulting reports that the 30 days constitutionally provided to override the President's veto on any Bill has elapsed.

Enoh said by his calculation, the actual date that the president received the 2013 Appropriation bill from the time it was transmitted by the National Assembly was still less than the required 30 days.

The National Assembly passed the 2013 Appropriation Bill of 4.987 trillion Naira on December 20, 2012, but it is yet to be signed into law by President Jonathan over differential issues including bloated figures and jerked up oil benchmark prices. According to the Appropriations chairman, the executive and the leadership of the legislature are meeting to resolve the issues.

The former finance committee chairman also refuted reports that the budget Bill was returned by the Presidency to the National Assembly, stating that "the channel of returning any Bill, not just the Appropriation Bill, is usually formal, and that has not been done." urging Nigerians to be patient and calm, he argued that even if the assent is delaying longer than expected, 2013 budget would do better in terms of budget passage and implementation than the previous years.

Denying that the National Assembly "padded" the budget for selfish reasons, he explained in the first place, "The word padding (of budget) is not a civil language in a democracy," while pointing out that if they meant some proposals, in the opinion of standing committees, were cut and re-distributed to somewhere else to prevent a project from being abandoned, it would be agreed, but that these changes were adjustments for the benefit of Nigerians, adding that his committee did not get any directive to pad the Bill, and neither did it have the powers to do so.

He also denied alleged inclusion of "unimplementable" constituency projects by members of the National Assembly, blaming such developments on deliberate lack of will by government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to develop a template for implementing projects over the years.

"What is lacking is the will to do what is needed by the MDAs, and this is something that has come out of lingering issues of who have greater powers on the budget. This has been a repeated issue and what is expected is for the MDAs to develop a template for implementation of the projects", he stated.

Enoh went further to state that the reps did not increase benchmark to make more money available to National Assembly members to increase their allowances as the National Assembly budget has remained at 150 billion Naira since 2011.

"The argument made no sense," he stated.

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