President Goodluck Jonathan
Barring any last-minute change in plans, details of the 2013 appropriation bill are to be transmitted to the Presidency tomorrow, putting an end to a month-long drama and controversy, which had trailed the budget.
According to a competent source who confided in THISDAY last night, the Committees on Appropriation of the two chambers of the National Assembly are through with the budget details and the Clerk of the National Assembly will transmit the financial document to President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday.
In an apparent response to a rash of criticisms, which the budget delay had generated, the Committees on Appropriation of the two chambers were said to have deliberated on the document throughout the Yuletide period to get the budget details ready.
The source, who was part of the process, said the breakdown contained nothing fundamentally different from the budget passed by the National Assembly, an indication that the contentious issues of the budget benchmark and the zero allocation for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) remain unchanged.
Advancing reasons for the delay in signing the budget, the source explained that there was no disagreement between the National Assembly and Presidency, adding that the delay was inevitable because details of the budget had not been worked out.
President Jonathan was speculated to have withheld its assent to the budget as a result of the disagreement over the budget oil benchmark price and embargo placed on SEC budget as the lawmakers pressed for the sack of SEC Director-General Arumah Oteh.
But the presidency absolved itself of any blame, insisting that weeks after the National Assembly had passed the N4.987 trillion budget for the 2013 fiscal year, the document was yet to be transmitted to the Presidential Villa for President Jonathan's assent.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters Senator Joy Emodi, who cleared the air in an interview with THISDAY, had said the delay in transmitting the document was stalling the signing of the budget.
Emodi, reacting to accusations that Jonathan was slow and unwilling to give his assent to the budget because of certain amendments and clauses inserted into it by the lawmakers, said the president was committed to having the budget signed early but could not do so until details of the 2013 budget passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly had been forwarded to his office.
The two chambers of the National Assembly had harmonised their divergent positions and adopted $79 per barrel as the recommended oil benchmark for the 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper.
President Jonathan had predicted the 2013 -2015 MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper on an oil benchmark of $75 and had based the 2013 Appropriation Bill on the same benchmark.
However, controversy arose when the House and the Senate adopted $80 per barrel and $78 per barrel respectively during the consideration of the proposals in their separate chambers.
This divergence of positions on the matter resulted in the setting up of a Joint Conference Committee in the National Assembly to explore the possibility of reaching a common position.
After extensive deliberations and consultations by the conference committee, a harmonised report was adopted late December last year, recommending $79 per barrel as the appropriate oil benchmark price.
According to the report, the additional funds arising from the $4 increase over and above the $75 proposed by the Executive will be used to reduce domestic borrowing and the budget deficit as well as funding critical infrastructure projects.