National Assembly Complex, Abuja
By Onwuka Nzeshi
The House of Representatives is currently at war with itself following allegations by a group of lawmakers that the leadership of the House compromised the outcome of the legislative work done on the 2012 Budget.
Some lawmakers over the weekend, claimed that the leadership of the House in connivance with the executive arm of government, substituted the version of the budget passed by the House with another version produced by the executive before the budget was signed into law.
But the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, described the budget substitution theory as a mere allegation contrived to stir up unnecessary controversy and conflict. He challenged those who made the allegation to prove it.
“The budget is a public document and when you allege that there is a difference between the version we passed and the version Mr. President signed into law, the onus lies on those making the allegation to prove it,” he said. Mohammed blamed the controversy on certain unnamed forces whom he said, had been uncomfortable with the peace and tranquility that had prevailed in the House of Representatives over the last eleven months.
A member of the aggrieved group, Hon. Aliyu Madaki, told THISDAY that a cross section of the members were uncomfortable with the action taken by the leadership of the House and were poised to get to the root of the matter.
Madaki who represents Dala Federal Constituency, Kano State, said it was the budget substitution controversy that prom-pted his point of order last Thursday in which he demanded a closed door session to enable members discuss the issue.
“What happened was that after President Goodluck Jonathan presented the budget to the National Assembly,the various standing committees were mandated to work on it. We worked on the budget based on the envelopes allocated to each of the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and ensured that we allocated funds to areas where we felt such resources were needed and should go. We then passed the budget and transmitted it to the President for assent.
However, to our greatest disappointment, we discovered that what was eventually signed into law was not the budget we passed but another version entirely. This was why I moved the motion calling for an executive session for us to trash out the matter,” he stated.
Madaki said though the closed door session held, the Speaker of the House, Hon Aminu Tambuwal and his colleagues in the leadership were unable to explain the anomally.
According to him, the closed door session was merely suspended as the matter could not be fully resolved.
THISDAY learnt that that the issue would be part of the agenda in the coming days as members have sworn to slug it out with the leadership for what some have termed a breach of trust.
Weeks after the National Assembly passed the 2012 Appropriation Bill, President Goodluck Jonathan was not in a hurry to assent to it.
Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, later explained that the signing of the budget was being delayed because the executive and the legislature needed to meet and harmonise their positions on the budget. The budget was signed days after this explanation.