By Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja
Uneasy calm now pervade the National Assembly as lawmakers are divided over the delay by President Goodluck Jonathan to assent to the 2013 Appropriation in line with the 1999 Constitution.
Consequently, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers in the House of Representatives accused their colleagues in the opposition parties of playing politics with the 2013 budget.
The lawmakers yesterday made the accusation after last Thursday’s threat by the Minority Caucus in the lower chamber to mobilise members to override the president’s veto if he failed to sign the budget within the period stipulated in the 1999 Constitution.
The legislators of the ruling party, who spoke under the aegis of PDP Renaissance Group, described the utterances of the opposition as offensive and unfortunate.
The group lamented that the threat came at a time the presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly were on the verge of resolving their differences in the 2013 Appropriation Bill.
The group leader, Hon. Kyari Gujbawu (PDP/ Borno) said rather than fan the embers of discord, the opposition should join the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly to resolve all the outstanding issues on the budget and ensure that it was signed and implemented in the overall interest of the people and the economy.
The group also accused the opposition lawmakers of trying to distort the economic policies of the Federal Government by promoting some unwarranted alterations in the 2013 budget.
The group said what the opposition “wants us to do is to fundamentally alter the foundation of the budget. That is going to lead to a very big structural problem and that will not be acceptable. I do not think the 200 PDP members of that House will be hood-winked by the antics of the opposition”.
Gujbawu therefore described the threat as not only empty but an attempt to frustrate the economic policies of the Federal Government, saying such moves would be totally destructive to the interests of members of the 360 federal constituencies.
He said: “I think we have done a wonderful job having to go through the budget as presented by the executive. The executive brought a budget proposal; we worked on it and made some amendments and sent it back to Mr. President.
“Mr. President also caused his experts in government to advise him on the amendments and questions were raised about the budget and they sent the document back to us. I think it is a very healthy process for us to arrive at a perfect or near perfect document to fix our country.
“But I think we should not politicise this process which is the normal and healthy process in budget formulation anywhere in the world in any kind of democracy. My own quarrel is that some members of the opposition are trying to politicise an otherwise healthy process in any budget process all over the world.
“We should stand against that; we should condemn that without being equivocal about it. The advice I want to give stakeholders in this budget issue, I mean both my colleagues in the National Assembly and the executive, is to let us put the country first.
“Let us take our selfish interests out of this. By the time each of us, the executive and legislature, decide that Nigeria comes first, I am sure it will be easier for us to fix this thing without rancour,” he said.
Gujbawu also said there was need to resolve the various issues and harmonise conflicting interests delaying the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) so as to pass a law that would protect the overall interest of the country.
He disclosed that a crucial meeting of selected members of the Senate and House of Representatives would hold this week with a view to sorting out grey areas in the bill.
He recalled that the House was able to scale the second reading hurdle on the PIB following the merger of the bill with the National Frontier Exploration Service Agency Establishment Bill, to protect the interest of areas that were yet to produce oil.