Sunday, 19 May 2013
Jonathan Begs PDP To Intervene In Budget Row With National Assembly
President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to intervene in the budget crisis between the executive and legislative arms of the government.
To that end, predictably a meeting has been fixed for Wednesday at the Presidential Villa barely hours after a tumultuous celebration of Nigeria’s soccer triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations would have been concluded there.
Those expected to be at the meeting are, from the executive: the President and Vice President Namadi Sambo, as well as some Ministers and Special Advisers.
The National Assembly will be represented by Senate President David Mark; the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; the Speaker of House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal; Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, and some other principal officials of the National Assembly.
President Jonathan has refused to sign the budget, which was passed in December 2012, into law, claiming the National Assembly added to what he sent to them for approval.
Jonathan has previously argued that the non-passage of budgets on time affected their implementation. Already, several departments of the government are bemoaning the standoff as their activities and planned programmes have ground to a halt. Diplomatic missions abroad are also feeling the pinch; many of them unable to pay staff salaries for the month of January.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, confirmed Wednesday’s meeting. Speaking with reporters in his office in Abuja this evening, however, he tried in vain to deny the purpose of the gathering.
"We have not been alerted there is a problem concerning the budget,” he said. “For now, I want you to know that neither the executive nor the legislature has alerted the party leadership that they are having problem on the budget."
He described as “crucial” the next one week for deciding the fate of that budget and that the President is eager to sign it to enable the different arms of government to start their programmes, adding that if there are grey areas, the executive and the legislature must be afford the opportunity to iron out their differences without creating tension.
“The PDP believes strongly that the President and the National Assembly are doing their duties the way they are handling the budget and we hope that within the shortest time, the budget would have been signed for complete implementation,” the party spokesman said.
Analysts believe that the scheduling of the meeting for Wednesday, when the President would normally meet with his cabinet, indicates how serious the budget battle has become. Over the years, the legislature has grown adept at loading the President’s budget proposals with items of their own, a practiced that is balanced by the presence of similar items in the document that are of personal benefit to top members of the executive.
As SaharaReporters has previously reported, the 2013 FCT budget proposal 253 billion Naira, for instance, includes an incredible four billion Naira allegedly for the First Lady’s “mission building,” and N150 million to “renovate” the Vice President's Guest House.
Similarly, the administration proposes to spend Five billion Naira to rehabilitate commercial sex workers and the destitute within the FCT; and an astounding seven billion Naira to construct two “city gates.”
President Jonathan approved those proposals.
“It will be interesting to see how the PDP resolves what is, essentially a balance of greedy elements within it, one in the executive, and one in the legislature,” an analyst said this evening. “They think the elephant is big enough for each and every one of them, and Nigeria is suffering for their greed and corruption.”