BY HENRY UMORU/OKEY NDIRIBE
ABUJA — STRONG indications emerged, yesterday, that the rift between the National Assembly and executive is yet to be nipped in the bud as the Senate suspended debate on 2013 budget, stalling to authorisation of N4.987 trillion from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
This came on a day indications also emerged that the House of Representatives was set for a show-down with the executive arm of government over the budget, as House spokesman briefed journalists on the contentious issue.
At the Senate, it was a dramatic U-turn by the senators, against the backdrop that the Bill, which was listed on the Notice Paper of the Senate on Tuesday,May 7, that it would be discussed yesterday and also repeated in the Order Paper as the number one Bill slated for consideration, to be presented by the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, PDP, Cross River Central, never came up for discussion by the senators.
Of the N4.9 trillion, N388 billion is for statutory transfer, while N591.7 billion is for debt services.
A further breakdown of the budget, which will be discussed as second reading tomorrow, showed that N2.418 trillion is for recurrent (non-debt), expenditure, while the balance of N1,588 trillion is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure for the year ending December 31, 2013.
The move of the Senate to stand down the much expected budget came barely 24 hours after the Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, stormed the National Assembly to plead with Senate President, David Mark, and others to key into President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda by starting with the passage of the budget.
Prior to its stoppage, Senate leader, Ndoma-Egba, had explained that the item should be stood down because the lead debate was not ready.
Senators, who were prepared to discuss the budget, having had it slated in the Order Paper for two days, were, however, shocked when it was no longer deliberated on.
It was also gathered that the move was to avert raising tempers that would have occurred from opposition senators and the zero allocation for Security and Exchange Commission, SEC.
It will be recalled that in the amendment proposal presented to both arms of the National Assembly in March, Jonathan retained the N4.987 trillion passed by the National Assembly last December, but proposed N2.4 trillion as recurrent expenditure as against the N2.3 trillion passed on December 20, 2012.
The President also sought the approval of N1.588 trillion as capital expenditure, against the N1.6 trillion approved by the parliament last year.
Of the total N4.987 trillion budget in the new proposal, N388 billion is earmarked for statutory transfers, while N591.7 billion is for debt service.
Jonathan had last September proposed N4.92 trillion as budget for 2013 fiscal year, but upon its passage, the National Assembly increased the figure to N4.987 trillion.
With the amendment proposal, Jonathan asked the National Assembly to restore various budget sub-heads as he presented them, in contrast to various tinkering with the figures done by the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Zakari Mohammed said yesterday that the House might not effect any amendment on the 2013 budget as was requested by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mohammed gave this insight while responding to a question demanding explanation for the skipping of the proposal for 2013 budget amendment, which was listed on the order paper for consideration yesterday.
Mohammed had replied that the fiscal document might not be touched, adding that the Presidency had against the expectation of members, returned the entire document in three volumes as was passed by the National Assembly.
Said he: “Debate on the 2013 Budget Amendment could not hold today(yesterdayay because many members of the House were not present. For instance, some of the members have left to attend their party’s convention.
“Some other members are currently on tour of projects across the country as part of their oversight functions. And the budget is for everybody because it concerns the entire nation. It is better the debate on the budget is slated for a day when most members would be present. That would be next Tuesday.”