Senator David Mark
The Senate Tuesday passed the 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) with the adoption of $78 per barrel of crude oil as the benchmark on which to base government revenue projections in the 2013 budget on.
The Senate’s oil benchmark for the budget is $2 lower than the $80 per barrel that the House of Representatives approved during its passage of the MTEF and FSP on October 9 and $3 over the $75 per barrel contained in the 2013 Appropriation Bill President Goodluck Jonathan submitted to the National Assembly last Wednesday.
The middle-of-the-course figure approved by the Senate is expected to ease tensions in the swirling controversy that has pitted the House against the presidency on what should be the appropriate oil benchmark to adopt for the 2013 budget on which debate begins today in the lower chamber.
With the difference in the figures approved by the two chambers of the National Assembly in their passage of the MTEF and FSP, and in line with parliamentary tradition, they would have to raise a joint committee that will reconcile the figures and come up with what will eventually become the eventual oil benchmark for the 2013 budget.
In approving the $78 oil benchmark, the Senate had considered the report of its joint Committee on Finance, and National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, in plenary Tuesday.
Senate President David Mark said the production benchmark for the three years would be 2.53 million barrels per day in 2013; 2.61 million barrels per day in 2014; and 2.65 million barrels per day in 2015. The upper chamber also upheld the exchange rate at N160 to $1 as the House did.
Briefing the media on the outcome of the report, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the difference in the oil benchmarks approved by the two chambers of the National Assembly would be resolved at the joint committee level.
He said: “On this difference, the two arms of the National Assembly, that is the Senate and the House of Representatives, we will now go for a conference and the result of what we do at the conference committee will now be the final position of what will be presented to Nigerians.”
On the recent outbursts by Jonathan’s aides over the budget, he said: “Let me state this for the record; we do not believe that President Jonathan has sent anybody out to cast aspersions on the Senate or the House of Representatives.
“Our belief actually is that those individuals speak for themselves and they are not doing the president any good, because our belief is that each arm of government is supposed to work harmoniously and do everything for the interest of the common person in Nigeria for all of us who make up the citizenry."
Abaribe said the desire of the Senate was to build a harmonious relationship and to be in accord with the executive as a way of reducing conflicts to the minimum between both arms of government, this is just as the House will today commence debate on the 2013 Appropriation Bill.
The bill was initially listed for debate and second reading yesterday but the debate was shelved due to time constraints.
House Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, announced that the debate would commence at plenary today after the House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, had introduced the bill, stating its key components as proposed by the executive arm of government.
However, THISDAY checks revealed that the budget debate might be stalled by complaints arising from the alleged poor implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act and non-adherence of the executive to the report of the House on the MTEF and FSP.
It was, however, learnt that there might be more to the benchmark war than meets the eye as investigations have revealed that the benchmark controversy has its roots more in politics than in the management of public finances and the economy.
Sources in the House said the lawmakers have not forgiven Jonathan and his cabinet over the alleged poor and selective implementation of the 2012 budget.
The lawmakers believe that the presidency deliberately under-funded the budget, especially the provision for constituency projects.
The lawmakers, it was learnt, are also suspicious of the presidency over its perceived role in the $620,000 bribe saga that consumed the suspended Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Fuel Subsidy Regime, Hon Farouk Lawan, as well as the subsequent handling of the subsidy probe report.