18 February 2013

Nigeria: Budget Veto - FG Seeks Legal Advice From AGF

The Presidency has directed the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) to furnish it with legal advice on the provision of the constitution on the application of veto power.

LEADERSHIP had exclusively reported that the 2013 budget was facing a constitutional crisis since the 30 days allowed for the President to sign it had already lapsed.

LEADERSHIP also exclusively reported that the National Assembly had given the presidency until Tuesday this week or they will move to override the presidential assent on the budget.

The Presidency, yesterday, came out clear on some of the contentious issues in the Budget which has delayed it's signing, chief among them being constituency projects injected into the Budget document by the legislators and the reduction in the personnel estimates submitted by the Executives.

The Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Dr. Nwanze Okidegbe, who disclosed the move, yesterday, in Abuja at a press conference said that in the interim, the Executive and Legislative Arms have reached an understanding on how government would continue to function pending the resolution of the contentious issues and subsequent signing into Law by the President.

He spoke on some of the contentious areas: "I want to start by stressing that President Goodluck Jonathan wants to sign the 2013 Budget as soon as possible if our discussions with the National Assembly lead to a resolution of certain key issues. Remember that the Executive submitted the Budget to the NASS in October 2012. Nigerians were very happy about this because it was a refreshing difference from the delays we had got used to. We worked very hard to achieve this. So we definitely want budget implementation to begin as soon as possible so that Nigerians can start enjoying the many benefits in the budget, "The NASS returned the budget in December 2012. Upon review by the Executive, some grey areas were identified and needed to be resolved.

Since then we have been working in partnership with the NASS to resolve the issues around the budget. The President wants the issues resolved in a manner that will protect the best interest of the Nigerian people. He supports a collaborative approach in the discussions with the National Assembly."

"We don't want the current situation surrounding the Budget to degenerate into an impasse because Nigerian people want results not disagreements. That is why we have asked the Attorney General of the Federation to furnish us with legal advice on the constitutionality of a Veto and its application. "There is an issue of constituency project which is on the table and discussion is still ongoing and it is very difficult to give a definite answer on the matter when discussions are on-going but we are making progress in reaching understanding and accommodation on the issues on the table.

"The overhead as passed by the National Assembly is higher than was submitted by the Executive and again, we are having discussion and progress is being made but not fully resolved.

Some went up and some went down and some were removed, thus making it difficult to implement. As a result of that we have pointed out in those areas, both the National Assembly and the Executive are discussing with a view to resolving them. "There were differences in what the Executive submitted in the votes for Personnel and what came back from the National Assembly as the votes were cut down. This has remained unresolved. It would be difficult to pay salaries with the personnel votes they passed and this may lead to industrial challenges. But as I said we have been in discussion on it," Dr. Nwanze further said.

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