By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA—After a week long face-off between the Presidency and the National Assembly, indications emerged, last night, that the lawmakers had soft-pedaled on their tough stance by accepting to review the budget.
Vanguard learned that the change of heart by the legislators, who had earlier threatened to veto the President on the matter, followed series of rapprochement between the Presidency and the top echelon of the NASS since the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from China.
A competent Presidential source confirmed, last night, that the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, had also met severally with key functionaries of the NASS and explained to them the imperatives of reworking the budget in the overall interest of Nigerians.
The source said that even before Buhari returned to Abuja last Saturday, the major infractions committed by the Finance and Appropriations committees of the NASS, which had rendered the budget inoperative, had been laid bare before the leadership of the legislature and their support sought in reviewing it.
The top-ranking official explained to Vanguard that the leadership of the legislature was shocked to see the extent to which the budget had been distorted and huge sums of money diverted to what the Presidency considers ‘irrelevant’ and against national interest.
According to the official, the Presidency viewed what the lawmakers did to the budget as virtually ‘rewriting’ the budget by removing provisions for key national projects and replacing them with ‘personal’ items which add no real value to Nigerians.
The source said the distortions, which had already been compiled by ministers, who used most of last week to work on the fiscal document, caught the lawmakers napping in eight areas.
The eight major areas of budget infractions were said to have been presented to Buhari upon his return to Nigeria and he felt disappointed by the antics of those who committed the act against the nation.
The Presidency officials said the areas had been shown to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, who were shocked to learn of the development.
One source close to the rapprochement said it was the stunning revelations from the Presidency that convinced the two leaders that the budget should be taken back and reviewed, given the level of distortions found in the document.
“After some formal and informal interactions, both leaders of the NASS have indicated willingness to reconsider the controversial appropriation bill,” a Presidency official confirmed last night.
Efforts to speak with the Minister of Budget, Sen. Udoma Udoma, proved abortive, as he did not pick his phone.
The minister’s Media Adviser, Mr. Akpandem James, could not also be reached for comments as at press time.