20 February 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan Meets Senate Leaders, to Sign Budget Wednesday

After weeks of intense politicking and controversy, President Goodluck Jonathan will Wednesday sign the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law.

THISDAY reliably learnt Tuesday that the president's decision to sign the budget was the fallout of a meeting between him and leadership of the Senate in the Presidential Villa last night.

A source told THISDAY that the meeting was aimed at fine-tuning lingering issues on the budget, where both parties eventually resolved controversial issues on the budget.

"I can tell you that the president will sign the budget tomorrow (Wednesday). Although that will be dependent on the meeting he'll be having with Senate leaders this night (Tuesday night).

"At the meeting, they will review what they have done so far on the budget. They will also cross their t's and dot their i's in the meeting. It is because the president is ready to sign the budget tomorrow (today) that he decided to assemble Senate leaders," the source said.

The 2013 budget has been a subject of controversy since December 20,2012 when both chambers of the National Assembly passed the bill into law.

For almost a month after the passage, the bill was not transmitted to the President.

It took curiosity on the part of the media led by THISDAY to compel the transmission on January 14.

The leadership of the National Assembly cited mechanical factors and bureaucracy as reasons for delay in the transmission.

But despite transmission, the president could not sign the budget within the statutory 30 days required by the law as a result of allegations that lawmakers appropriated N93 billion which were not originally included in the budget for their constituency projects.

Meanwhile, journalists waiting to cover another secret meeting between the president and leadership of the National Assembly were requested to leave the premises even before it commenced.

The meeting, which has become frequent, may not be unconnected with the 2013 budget which has been in limbo as the president refused to accent to it.

Last week, a similar parley was held at the presidential villa. At that time journalists were allowed to wait for it to close but nothing was heard from either the executive or the legislature.

The deafening silence reached a crescendo shortly after 9:25.pm. The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who came after Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, arrived at 8.44.pm, was also ushered into the private quarters of the president where the Senate President, David Mark was already waiting.

The Director-General of Budget Office, Mr Bright Okogwu and the Special Adviser to the president on Political Affairs, Ahmed Gulak, were also at the meeting.

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