Jonathan signs budget behind closed doors
Category: Lead stories
The budget faceoff between the executive and the legislature ended last night with the announcement that President Jonathan has signed the 2013 appropriation bill but with a caveat that the National Assembly agreed to make changes to the document to reflect his objections.
Curiously, the budget was signed behind closed doors, contrary to the tradition where the signing is held at a public ceremony in the presence of journalists.
Reporters had earlier gathered at the Presidential Villa in Abuja to witness the ceremony but were sent out of the venue soon after officials had arrived. Even State House official photographers and crew of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) were not allowed to cover the event, and no reason was given for this.
In a statement later last night, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said, “Following consultations and an agreement between the Executive and the Legislature on the 2013 Appropriation Bill, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan today signed the bill into law.
“President Jonathan wishes to reassure all Nigerians that the consultations have been in the best interest of the country, and in pursuit of understanding and mutual cooperation between both arms of government.
“As part of the understanding reached with its leadership, the observations of the executive arm of government about the Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly will be further considered by the National Assembly through legislative action, to ensure effective and smooth implementation of the 2013 Appropriation Act in all aspects.
“The administration remains fully committed to the positive transformation of the country, and effective and efficient service delivery for the benefit of all citizens.
“All Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government have therefore been directed to work very hard to ensure that all the services, projects and programmes contained in the budget are successfully delivered on schedule in spite of the slight delay in its enactment.”
Indications that the budget would be signed emerged earlier in the day when Senate spokesman Enyinnaya Abaribe said disagreements over the document had been “sufficiently” resolved.
“All the issues that have come out on this budget have been resolved and we think that in the shortest possible time, the budget would be signed by the president and the implementation will begin,” Abaribe told a news conference at the National Assembly.
But House of Representatives spokesman Zakari Mohammed had talked tough, hinting of a resolve of the National Assembly to override the president’s veto in the event he failed to sign the budget.
He said the 30 days allowed by the constitution within which the President can sign the budget “has expired” because the document was transmitted to him on January 14.
Jonathan on October 11, 2012 presented before the joint session of the National Assembly a budget estimate of N4.487 trillion budget, but the National Assembly raised it to N4.987 trillion, making fresh proposals.
One of the key points of disagreement on the budget between the executive and the legislature is the constituency projects inserted by the National Assembly.
Others are a clause that makes it mandatory for the Minister of Finance to brief the National Assembly every quarter on the implementation of the budget, as well as the raising the oil benchmark from $75 to $79 per barrel.
Yesterday’s closed-door signing ceremony was attended by Senate President David Mark, House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, National Planning Minister Shamsudeen Usman, director general of the Budget Office Bright Okogu and Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters Joy Emordi.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and Okogu spurned questions from journalists after the signing ceremony. Joy Emordi also refused to answer questions when asked why reporters were barred from covering the event.