JUST before embarking on their annual vacation the House of Representatives on Thursday, July 19th 2012, served a resolution to commence impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan should they resume in September to find the 2012 Appropriation Act not implemented “one hundred per cent”.
This was a culmination of a trend whereby, according to the House, many aspects of the budget were not given the necessary cash support to ensure completion of projects.
Coming at a time when every indication shows a healthy realisation of revenue targets, the House felt there was no reasonable explanation for the failure of the Federal Ministry of Finance to release funds for implementation of the budget.
Since that threat of impeachment was issued, it has dominated discussions in public circles. Many have seen the threat as a political tool to intimidate the Presidency.
Others have chosen to see it as an old trick by the lawmakers to arm-twist the Executive Branch into parting with undeserved favours, while some have commended the House for standing up to its oversight function.
We do not want to read any untoward meaning into this gesture, as we do not really believe the House will put the “threat” into practice.
Rather we see it as a last-ditch measure to get the Executive Branch to redouble its effort in ensuring the success of the 2012 federal budget. Happily, the federal government has reacted with a high sense of responsibility rather than muscle flexing.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, her colleague Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku and even the President’s Advisers on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emordi and Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, have come forward with clarifications and necessary information to show that the Presidency is inclined to taking constructive steps to speed up compliance.
We now know that the Presidency has already sent circulars to the various ministries, departments and agencies to start work on the 2013 budget for tabling before the National Assembly in late September 2012 to give the nation a three months head-start on next year’s budget.
Clearly, the “impeachment threat” came as a result of misunderstanding between the two arms of the federal government. Both sides should improve communication between them and avoid sending wrong signals into the polity by resorting to extreme measures of impeachment threat over matters that can easily be resolved through dialogue.
The Executive Branch must be mindful of the fact that the Legislature is constitutionally empowered to exercise oversight of its activities and must respond positively whenever they seek information or clarification on any aspect of governance.
Both sides should work together without resort to threats.