Showdown: National Assembly Demands 2014 Budget

Almost four months after President Goodluck Jonathan forwarded an amendment bill to the N4.987 trillion 2013 budget, a stalemate looms between the Presidency and the National Assembly.

national-assembly1-copy-1024x508Rather than amend the 2013 budget, the National Assembly is asking the Presidency to immediately commence work on the 2014 Appropriation Bill.

This new position of the National Assembly was communicated to Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation at a meeting, held in the second week of June. The new stance of the National Assembly might be a departure from an agreement reached between the legislature and Jonathan before he signed the 2013 budget on February 26. Besides that, both chambers of the National Assembly were singing discordant tunes over the proposed amendments.

At some meetings convened to iron out details of the 2013 budget amendment, the National Assembly reportedly told the executive to forget about amending the 2013 Appropriation Act on the premise that the extant budget was already being implemented. The lawmakers insisted that it would be better for the Presidency to send in a new budget and have it passed on time than continue to tinker with an “old budget that is already being implemented with first and second quarter releases already done.”

Sources on the Appropriation Committee told Daily Sun that “lawmakers are not disposed to amending the budget and we have told the executive so. We have told them to rather concentrate on working on and presenting the 2014 budget rather than waste efforts on the 2013 budget that is already being implemented.”

It was further gathered that there is already a stalemate in the National Assembly as at close of work on Friday, June 28. The amendment bill, it was gathered, was in safe custody of the National Assembly leadership “studying the new amendments” while the appropriate committees await further directive on what to do.

Daily Sun gathered that Aso Rock was peeved that the National Assembly inserted some clauses into the 2013 budget, mandating the Accountant-General of the Federation to report accruals and any shortfalls thereof to the National Assembly. This clause, the Presidency maintained, was an unconstitutional move as the directive encroached on executive powers of the president.

Besides, the Presidency was also peeved that the National Assembly went beyond its powers by giving zero allocation to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a move again, described as unconstitutional.

The first amendment bill forwarded to the National Assembly on March 14 was rejected “because it was just a re-working of the entire budget. That was not the agreement we had with the president. And so, naturally, our members were not disposed to working on the amrndments. That was why no work was done until we went on recess. Besides, lawmakers are angry that their N100 billion constituency projects have not been implemented by the Presidency.”

More than that, lawmakers were reportedly angry that their constituency projects were also not included in the amendment bill.