President Goodluck Jonathan
Onwuka Nzeshi and Hammed Shittu
Two weeks after the National Assembly passed the N4.987 trillion budget for the 2013 fiscal year, the document has not been transmitted to the presidency for assent by President Goodluck Jonathan, THISDAY was reliably informed Tuesday.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, told THISDAY exclusively that the delay in transmitting the document was stalling its signing into law.
She also dismissed insinuations of a plot by lawmakers to scuttle the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and frustrate the planned comprehensive reforms in the oil and gas sector.
Emodi, reacting to accusations that Jonathan was slow and unwilling to give his assent to the budget because of certain amendments and clauses inserted into it by the lawmakers, said the president was committed to having the budget signed early but could not do so until details of the 2013 budget passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly had been forwarded to his office.
“Let us not jump the gun. The president is ready to fast track the signing of the budget but there is no way he can sign what he has not seen. The National Assembly has not transmitted the details of the budget. Until he gets the details of the budget, it would be inappropriate to expect him to sign it.
“Unlike what some people think, Mr. President is not slow. He is a very meticulous person and has a passion for detail. The budget is not what you can toy with because it is about the most important bill the parliament passes every year. Mr. President cannot work in a vacuum but with the information available to him,” she said.
Emodi expressed optimism over the passage of the PIB, which she said had already advanced to the committee stage in the House of Representatives and could have reached the same level in the Senate but for some last minute hitches.
According to her, the situation that prevented the Senate from considering the bill before proceeding on the Christmas and New Year holidays was circumstantial and not due to any sinister plot against the PIB.
“I do not think the Petroleum Industry Bill is under threat in the National Assembly. From all indications, the bill will receive priority attention in the New Year and it will definitely be passed into law. They will not throw it away.
“What I cannot promise you is that the bill will come out exactly the way it went in because it was sent to the National Assembly for the lawmakers to fine tune it.
“I can only urge the two chambers to expedite action on the bill and pass it in such a way that it does not lose its potency to address the various issues of inefficiency and corruption in the oil and gas industry.
“The bill should be passed in such a way that its outcome will impact positively on the petroleum industry and allow every Nigerian to benefit from the sector,” Emodi added.
On the review of the 1999 Constitution, Emodi expressed satisfaction with what the National Assembly had achieved so far and lauded the lawmakers on the recent public hearings held on the amendments at the zonal and federal constituency levels.
The public hearings, she said, were not only a perfect division of labour between the House and the Senate, but a demonstration of legislative cooperation on a sensitive national issue.
Meanwhile, the former acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, has expressed optimism that the Federal Government would provide more dividends of democracy, including employment opportunities, for Nigerians this year with the early passage of the 2013 budget.
Baraje said in Ilorin yesterday that the government was committed to uplifting the well-being of the populace and this would be achieved with the quick passage of the budget.
According to him, “The steps taken by the present administration with the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) and other employment opportunities would not only engage the youths in meaningful programmes, but equally reduce tension in the land as well as curb the insurgence of crime and bombing.”
Baraje urged Nigerians to be patient and to believe Jonathan’s promise that his administration would do better this year in improving the welfare of the people than in previous years.
The former PDP boss noted that it was only in a peaceful environment that development could thrive and therefore urged Nigerians to cooperate with security operatives in fighting crime by providing them with useful information about people with questionable character.
Also speaking on the same issue, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Ahmad Ali, called on Nigerians to support the Federal Government in the task of moving the nation forward.
He said the Federal Government has fashioned out many programmes for the populace and "what we need this time around is to be patient and support the government so as to achieve the desired goals”.