President Goodluck Jonathan
Despite efforts by the executive arm of government and the National Assembly to get the 2013 Appropriation Act signed into law before December 31, 2012, the legislative arm of government will only transmit the details of the 2013 Appropriation Bill to the presidency by the end of the second week of this month, THISDAY has learnt.
Barring any last minute hitches, the process, it was further gathered, is expected to culminate in the signing of the budget by the end of January.
The Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance of the National Assembly is currently preparing to commence the process of putting together details of the budget for onward transmission to the executive arm of government.
The Senate and the House of Representatives had on December 20, 2012 passed the broad estimates of a harmonised version of the N4.987 trillion Appropriation Bill.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Victor Ogene, who spoke on the next line of action yesterday, disclosed that putting together the details of the budget would take about two weeks, thus confirming THISDAY’s story yesterday that the budget had not been transmitted to the president.
Ogene explained that what the National Assembly is going to do is akin to what happens each time the executive presents the budget estimates to the parliament.
“You know that whenever the president comes to present the budget to the joint session of the National Assembly, he comes with the broad figures. It is only after that that the details are forwarded to the National Assembly.
“In the present case, the Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance will work on the budget details to ensure that the amounts allocated to the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) fall in line with the broad figures that we passed.
“This will take about two weeks and the whole thing will be transmitted to the president.
“So the worst case scenario is that the executive will spend another two weeks studying it and signing of the budget may be accomplished by the end of the month,” Ogene said.
The deputy spokesman of the lower chamber dismissed earlier speculations that President Goodluck Jonathan had refused to sign the budget because of some clauses inserted into it by the parliament.
According to Ogene, it was premature to accuse Jonathan of refusing to sign the budget except if he had chosen to work with the passed document without the details.
Last October, the president had laid the 2013 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly.
In the course of the budget consideration, several issues had cropped up, chief of which was the legislature’s insistence on revising upwards the crude oil benchmark figure from the $75 per barrel proposed by the executive.
The House of Representatives had proposed a benchmark of $80, while the Senate had suggested $78 per barrel.
However, the harmonised budget passed by the National Assembly in December eventually settled for $79 per barrel.
The legislature had also expressed concern that Nigeria had a serious infrastructure deficit across the length and breadth of the nation.
The National Assembly therefore revised some of the major indices of the budget and tasked the executive to be more circumspect in its budget processes to avoid acute cases of over budgeting on the one hand and in other instances, under budgeting.
It also reiterated the need for the committees of the National Assembly to assume a more than passing role in their oversight responsibilities to ensure that the yearly budgeting process was not reduced to a mere ritual.