Questions Over 2013 Budget

Editorial

President Goodluck Jonathan, Tuesday, 26 February, finally signed the long-awaited 2013 budget, after he reportedly reached a truce with members of the National Assembly, following weeks of bickering over the 2013 Appropriation Bill.

The budget signing was however done behind closed doors, altering the long tradition of the president performing the exercise before the cameras, with key state officials witnessing the process.

The Senate and the House of Representatives had, in record time, on 20 December last year passed the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law, but made some alterations which the Executive arm took exception to.

The alterations made the President delay his assent to the budget, since 13 January that it was reportedly forwarded to him by the National Assembly. Jonathan’s reluctance in appending his signature to the budget prompted some lawmakers to threaten to override the president.

The lawmakers not only increased to N4.987trn, the initial N4.92trn budget estimates the president sent to them; they raised the oil benchmark from $75 to $79; as well as increased their constituency allowance allocation.

The legislators also refused to approve funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, after the president failed to accede to their request to sack the SEC Director-General, Arunma Oteh, with whom they have had a long-drawn battle.

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Despite these points of disagreements between the executive and the lawmakers over the 2013 Appropriation, the president went ahead to append his signature to the contentious budget.

A statement by the presidency said the president signed the budget “…following consultations and an agreement between the Executive and the Legislature”. It added that the observations of the executive on the 2013 Appropriation Bill, as passed by the lawmakers, “will be further considered by the National Assembly through legislative action”.

Given the president’s change of mind in signing the budget, the question arises as to whether the best interest of the country was served in the ‘truce’ reached by the executive and the legislative arms.

The reasons given by the presidency for signing the budget appear vague for now. It appears the president was harassed into signing the budget. Were the knotty issues that necessitated the delay in the first place in signing the budget resolved?

We refuse to be kept in the dark. We demand a quick release of the budget breakdown by the executive arm, for Nigerians to determine if due process has not be sacrificed on the altar of political diplomacy.