By HENRY UMORU EMMAN OVUAKPORIE JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
ABUJA—THE drama which had trailed the 2013 budget, following sharp disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly, was laid to rest yesterday as both chambers of the National Assembly approved a total of N4,987,220,425,601 in the amendment requested by President Jonathan.
The amount captured in the amendment is almost the same with the earlier figure approved by the lawmakers in the original budget.
The total budget passed by the Senate was 4.987 trillion, out of which N388 billion was for statutory transfers, N591 billion for debt service, N2.415 trillion for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, while the balance of N1.591 trillion was earmarked for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure for the year ending on the 31 December, 2013.
This development came after a closed-door meeting that lasted over three hours.
Senator Enyinaya Abaribe, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, said the Senate decision was in the interest of Nigerians.
Presenting his committee’s report on the budget earlier, Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ahmed Maccido, explained that the budget amendment did not in any way increase the aggregate expenditure of the original bill passed in December 24, 2012.
Jonathan, had in a letter to the Senate, asked the upper legislative chamber to restore the over N77 billion which he said the National Assembly unilaterally removed from the proposed budget for the Ministry of Works, including N4 billion approved for Abuja –Lokoja road.
In his remark, Senate President, David Mark advised the executive to keep faith to the approved budget just as he tasked the standing committees of the senate to step up their oversight function on the executive and government agencies.
Meanwhile, the Presidency yesterday described the passage of the 2013 Appropriation amendment Bill by the National Assembly as the triumph of constructive dialogue, just as it hailed the Senators and members of the House of Representatives for the job.
According to the Presidency, yesterday’s action by the lawmakers was an indication that they were on the side of the people who are working for their common good and national interest.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi who reiterated the commitment of the presidency on early submission of the 2014 Appropriation Bill as promised, said: ‘’I wish to commend members of the National Assembly for the successes so far recorded in year 2013, especially on the issue of 2013 Appropriation (Amendment) Act and Constitution Amendment.
‘’I commend them for the eventual passing of the 2013 Appropriation (Amendment) Bill. This is indeed a boost for national development, as it will go a long way to keep the targets of the 2013 Budget on track and facilitate the actualization of the overall Transformation Agenda of this administration.”
‘’Importantly also, the passing of the Appropriation (Amendment) Act 2013 goes further to showcase the leadership qualities of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the leadership of the National Assembly. Both the Executive and the Legislature have proven, once again, that they are both on the side of the people, working for their common good, and national interest.
‘’The eventual passage of the amended 2013 Budget is the triumph of constructive dialogue. It underlines the virtue and virility of dialogue and cooperation in the management of executive-legislature relations in a presidential democracy.
‘’I feel highly justified by the passing of the amended 2013 Budget because against the tide of sweeping despair across the nation over the seeming intractable inter-governmental issues over gray areas in the Principal Appropriation Act 2013 and their rectification through this amended Budget, I have always believed in the National Assembly and have never hidden my faith in the capacity of both arms of Government to sort out all gray areas through the instrument of dialogue and concession.
‘’Let me reassure Distinguished Senators and Honourable members of the House of representatives that Mr. President will submit the 2014 Appropriation Bill early as promised. They should therefore get ready to work with the Executive, once again, to reenact the historic feat of last year by also passing the year 2014 Budget estimate into law before the start of the new fiscal year.