President Goodluck Jonathan
•PDP meets Mark, Tambuwal tomorrow
Kunle Aderinokun, Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan is billed to sign the 2013 Appropriation Bill this week, THISDAY learnt yesterday.
According to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the president is expected to sign the money bill following the resolution of contending issues between the executive and the National Assembly.
As part of efforts to ensure that all the issues threatening the signing of the bill into law are quickly resolved, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is scheduled to meet tomorrow with the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly in order to make them strike a compromise with the president that will lead to the signing of the bill into law.
The Federal Government had presented N4.92 trillion on September 19, 2012 as the proposed 2013 budget to the National Assembly but the latter passed N4.987 trillion on October 4, 2012, causing a disagreement between the two arms of government.
Okonjo-Iweala, who responded to an enquiry by THISDAY yesterday in Lagos, believed that the current situation surrounding the budget would not degenerate into an impasse because Jonathan has been very supportive of a collaborative approach with the National Assembly.
“We are working very well on the budget and we hope that within a week, we would be able to come to some kind of agreement. But I can’t say exactly.
“What we are finding now is that there are some grey or problematic areas that we need to iron out between us, in order for us to have a budget that is in the interest of the Nigerian people and that can be implemented and both sides would be satisfied,” she added.
Giving an insight into the grey areas delaying the presidential assent, Okonjo-Iweala said: “You know about N33 billion of personnel cost that were moved out of the salary will need to be restored and the National Assembly has agreed to do that.
“The second area has to do with the capital budget. The point is that in the capital budget, there is an additional N192 billion expenditure. These expenditures are in some MDAs. In some MDAs, some projects have had their cost reduced; some have had their cost added. You know, if the cost is reduced, it will be very difficult to implement. Some MDAs have additional projects and additional resources which they may not have the capacity to implement all.”
She said in order to resolve the issues, the executive had been working with the committee chairs, chaired by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
“It is not that the president does not want to sign. We are collaborating; we are trying to solve the problem, not that we are at loggerheads. There have been very good cooperation from the National Assembly. We have decided that there is no point fighting. It will not benefit anyone. It won’t take us anywhere. The president wants us to take an approach to sort this out. It is really a big credit for him and we are working in that manner to sort it out,” she stated.
To hasten the resolution of the differences between the presidency and the National Assembly on the budget, the PDP National Working Committee will tomorrow meet with the leadership of the National Assembly on the 2013 budget.
Though the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said that the budget was not part of the agenda of the meeting, he added that if the matter comes up, it would be discussed.
He said that neither the National Assembly nor the presidency has informed the PDP that there was a problem over the budget.
However, a source in the NWC told THISDAY that the meeting will focus on the budget crisis.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers in the House yesterday disagreed with their colleagues in the PDP over what they described as the undue delay by Jonathan to assent to the appropriation bill.
The House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, debunked allegations by PDP Renaissance Group, whose membership comprises the party’s lawmakers in the House that the opposition lawmakers wanted to change the foundation on which the 2013 budget was built.