By Onwuka Nzeshi
Barely one week to the expiration of the mandatory 30-day period for President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law, the House of Representatives has reiterated its preparedness to override the President’s veto if he failed to sign the money bill.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, made the position of the House known at the weekly chat with the House of Representatives correspondents.
Mohammed acknowledged the ongoing talks between the presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly on the budget but said the legislators would not shy away from their constitutional responsibilities whenever the need arises.
He said that the ongoing engagement between the two arms of government was to enable them resolve certain grey areas in the budget.
He disclosed that the issues at stake included the clauses relating to the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); the roll over of the capital component of the 2012 budget to the end of the first quarter of this year; the demand by the National Assembly for a quarterly briefing on the budget’s performance; and the crude oil benchmark price.
The spokesman of the lower chamber of the National Assembly said these issues needed to be resolved and the budget signed into law as soon as possible.
According to Mohammed, if the issues are resolved quickly the budget may be assented to by next week.
“The budget is still with the president and as it is, the executive and legislature are exploring all available means to interface on the budget.
“All week long and even up till yesterday evening there were interactions between the presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly on the budget. We are expecting that maybe by next week, the right thing might be done.
“But in the absence of that, the National Assembly is not afraid to apply the constitution because the budget is the property of the people of Nigeria and unless it is committed to law and made implementable, the Nigerian people might suffer unduly. We, being their representatives, would always do the right thing to ensure that the budget is delivered to the people,” he said.
Mohammed, however, explained that because of the procedures involved in the budgeting process, the parliament was not in a hurry to dabble into the option of overriding the president’s veto.
He said that the House would remain committed to the current effort by the presidency and the National Assembly to work towards an amicable resolution of the issues surrounding the budget.
Mohammed said since the presidency has pledged to get the budget signed, the option of overriding the president’s veto would only arise as a last resort.
The National Assembly, he explained, would remain alive to its responsibilities and would not be afraid to apply the constitution.
“We must explore and exhaust all other available means to get it signed because at the end of the day the budget is a product of the people of Nigeria.
“It is their property because it is only when the budget becomes law that projects would start running in the various constituencies across the country,” Mohammed said.
Earlier during Thursday’s plenary, four bills listed for consideration were shelved due to faulty procedures in their presentation.
The affected bills included one seeking an amendment to the National Directorate of Employment Act, Cap. N28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, by creating specific functions and objectives for the directorate to specifically cater for unemployed graduates of tertiary institutions; A Bill for an Act to Amend the Federal Road Safety Commission Act to further regulate and prohibit the covering of vehicle identification number plates; and A Bill for an Act to Amend the Consumer Protection Council Act to modify its composition, widen the scope of its functions and powers in order provide for a broader and more effective council.
Also shelved was a bill for an Act to amend the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission Act, 2010. All the bills, which were scheduled for debate on their general principles and second reading.
Similarly, the lawmakers suspended consideration of the report of the House Joint Committee on Commerce and Customs and Excise on the alleged misuse of export expansion grants by some industrialists.
The suspension followed the incongruity between the report’s findings and its recommendations. It has been recommended to the joint committee for a review and re-presentation at a later date.