NASS to confront Jonathan over N53b budget delay, distortion

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By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Therewere indications last night that the House of Representatives might not agree to re-adjust the 2014 budget, which it passed last month, as requested by the Presidency.

The House insists that no significant adjustment was made by the lawmakers to warrant further adjustment, saying that the allegation by the Presidency that there were major distortions in the budget was unfortunate.

A top source in the National Assembly told Saturday Vanguard that the NASS leadership was not ready to rework the 2014 budget, which had almost been overtaken by events.Cartoon-budget1

The source, who is a member of the NASS leadership, pointed out that the President had no justification to withhold his assent to the fiscal bill, which was merely adjusted with the addition of N53 billion.

The source said that it was wrong for the President to delay his assent to the bill, which has far-reaching consequences for the country and its people.

“The source said: “I don’t think that lawmakers are in the mood to listen to the President on the alleged distortions in the budget. This has always been the pattern used by the Executive to delay the budget every year, thereby stalling its implementation for the progress of this country.

“What the President considers as distortion is nothing more than the sum of N53 billion, which the NASS in its wisdom added to some very strategic institutions of government such as the police and other security agencies because of the exigencies of the time.

“Let me say that the additional money does not go to any individual or group but to where it is most needed in the wisdom of the lawmakers,” the lawmaker said.

It will be recalled that President Jonathan had late last year sent a budget of N4.642 trillion to the NASS for approval but the legislators ‘padded’ the President’s submission with N53 billion before passing the bill.

Although the fiscal bill has since been sent to President by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Jonathan is said to have complained that there were distortions in the budget, which he wanted sorted out before assenting to it.

Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, confirmed the position of the President to state House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting last Wednesday.

Maku said, “The Minister of Finance briefed us today at the FEC relating to the progress on the budget. It is very sad that we have almost entered the middle of the year and we don’t have a budget.

“This indeed is sad that the budget has taken so long in coming and practically we have less than seven months to execute the budget.

We will do everything possible to reconcile the few differences that emerged in what was transmitted to the government by the National Assembly.

“There are few areas of distortions and they are those areas that are very serious and we think there is a need to look into them because of the negative impact those distortions may have on the implementation of the budget.

“There is a lot of conversation going on now between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the National Assembly on these issues. And very shortly we believe that we are going to reconcile those areas and then the final budget will be announced to the nation by the President.”

It will be recalled that both chambers of the National Assembly had, in passing the 2014 Budget, raised the figures to N4.695 trillion from the N4.642 trillion estimates submitted by the Executive.

The 2014 budget is made up of statutory transfers, N408.687 billion; debt servicing, N712 billion; recurrent expenditure, N2.454 trillion; and capital expenditure, N1.119 trillion.

 

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