Onwuka Nzeshi and Omololu Ogunmade
The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives Thursday urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law without further delay or risk a situation where the parliament would override his presidential veto as provided in the constitution.
This came as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Business and Rules, Senator Ita Enang, yesterday dismissed a recent allegation that the president had refused to sign the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law because the lawmakers appropriated another N93 billion to themselves aside the original appropriation to the legislature in the budget.
However, the opposition lawmakers in their presentation, said: “We call on Mr. President to very quickly sign the 2013 budget and we will work with him on this if there are genuine grey areas. We are already in February and a situation where the legislature will have to over ride his presidential veto as constitutionally provided is not a good way to start the year or foster a good legislative-executive relationship.
“We also ask that Mr. President begins to respect official resolutions from an equal arm of government as these resolutions are always in national interest. If two heads are better than one, then surely 360 heads are better than one.”
The over 160-member caucus comprise legislators elected on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progress Change (CPC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila(ACN/Lagos), who addressed journalists after a closed door meeting of the parties yesterday, said the opposition legislators would continue to work together with the president for the common good but would not hesitate to disagree with him when necessary.
“This is the essence of true democracy and the true meaning of opposition and we trust that the PDP will also do likewise come 2015 when it plays the much needed role of opposition in our democracy,” he said.
In a related development, the House has debunked speculations that President Jonathan had refused to sign the 2013 budget and that the House was planning to override his veto.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, who addressed the issue at the weekly media briefing yesterday, said the budget was still with the executive and the parliament had not been notified of any refusal by the president to assent to it.
Mohammed said the seeming delay may be because the president was studying the budget, adding that the issue had not come to the stage where the National Assembly would contemplate overriding the presidential veto.
In the last couple of days, there have been speculations that President Jonathan had rejected the budget and may have returned it to the National Assembly.
It was learnt that President Jonathan’s rejection of the budget arose from the increase in the oil price benchmark from an initial $75 to $79 per barrel.
The presidency, it was learnt, also disapproved of one of the clauses in the budget which excluded the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from the 2013 budget.
The presidency is reportedly uncomfortable with the inclusion of some projects not contained in the executive proposal in the budget passed by the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Enang described the allegation as a mere creation of attention seekers.
A presidential aide had recently alleged in far away Switzerland that the president had been unable to sign the budget into law because he was worried over the inclusion of such whopping sum of money in the budget.
But in his reaction, Enang who described the allegation as frivolous, told THISDAY that if indeed the president has any reservation about the budget, he would have properly channelled his complaints to the National Assembly instead of discussing it with an aide, adding that the National Assembly has not received any form of complaints from the president over the budget till date.
According to him, the president has done nothing wrong by not signing the bill yet, explaining that the president has up to 30 days to study the bill during which he will decide whether to sign it or not.
Enang said until that was done, any other insinuation was merely frivolous.
“Well, I might not have got the details but for now, the issue is that the president got the budget sometimes in mid-January and the president has 30 days from the date he received the project to study it and decide whether or not to sign it. Now, nobody can at this stage say the president has not signed the budget or nobody can at this stage say this is the reason the president has not signed the budget. So, there is no issue of jerking up our budget because the president is still within the time allowed by the law. So, there is nothing wrong with the president not signing the budget now. The law allows him to study it for 30 days.
“Those are frivolous allegations by attention seeking persons because those persons will know that the president cannot refuse to sign the budget on account of a matter that he has not communicated to the National Assembly.
“How then will the aide know about a matter that has not been communicated to the National Assembly? It is not possible because if the president will not sign the budget, he will communicate it to the National Assembly. As long as he has not communicated such to the National Assembly, there is no question of refusing to sign the budget,” Enang said.