BY OKEY NDIRIBE
ABUJA— After weeks of uncertainty over the whereabouts of the 2013 budget, the Presidency, yesterday, confirmed that President Goodluck Jonathan had commenced studying the fiscal document which was passed by the National Assembly last December.
This was confirmed by the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, yesterday.
In response to an earlier text message Vanguard sent to her demanding to know when the budget would be signed into law, she replied: “As soon as Mr. President finishes studying the document.”
It would be recalled that submission of the 2013 budget to the Presidency had been delayed after it was passed by the National Assembly last December.
The budget bill for N4.9 trillion was passed by the National Assembly based on a proposal presented by the majority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
It was entitled: “A Bill for an Act to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N4.924 trillion of which N380 billion is for statutory transfers, N591 billion is for debt service, N2.412 trillion is for recurrent expenditure while the balance of N1.540 trillion is for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2013.”
President Jonathan had presented a budget estimate of N4.929 trillion for the 2013 fiscal year last October. The lawmakers decided to endorse $79 per barrel of crude oil as the benchmark for the 2013 budget.
Although no clear explanation had been given for the unprecedented delay in the submission of the budget to the President for assent, there were media reports that the delay was to enable the National Assembly conclude work on the details of the document.
However, other sources had indicated that the delay was due to the disagreement between the National Assembly and the Presidency over some contentious aspects of the budget.
It was learnt that one of such areas of disagreement had to do with the clause which was introduced into the fiscal document barring the Securities Exchange Commission, SEC, from disbursing any funds notwithstanding the source from which the revenue accrued to the account. The House had also refused to appropriate any fund for running the agency for 2013.
Sources close to the leadership of the National Assembly also confirmed that the benchmark of $79 per barrel of crude oil on which the budget is anchored is another aspect of the budget which has generated friction between both arms of government. The Executive had presented the budget based on a benchmark of $75 per barrel.
The SEC clause was introduced by the House of Representatives following an earlier resolution by the National Assembly recommending the sack of the Director-General of the Commission Ms Arunma Oteh on the ground that she lacked the requisite qualification to hold the office.
The SEC DG had been involved in a war of words with the House of Representatives after she accused the Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market Hon. Herman Hembe of demanding bribe from her.
Oteh’s allegations had led to the suspension of Hembe as Chairman of the Committee pending the conclusion of investigation into the controversial allegations.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had also waded into the case and invited Hembe for interrogation. The case was later charged to court by the anti-graft agency.