2016 Budget Row: Can NASS reach truce with Presidency?

The vanguard is reporting that lawmakers may have softened their tough stance on the 2016 budget by accepting to review it.

The paper quotes a Presidency official as saying that the Presidency viewed what the lawmakers did to the budget as virtually ‘rewriting’ the budget by removing provisions for key national projects and replacing them with ‘personal’ items which  add no real value to Nigerians.

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The source said the distortions, which had already been compiled by ministers, who used most of last week to work on the fiscal document, caught the lawmakers napping in eight areas.

 

Eight major breaches in the budget were said to have been presented to Buhari upon his return to Nigeria and he felt disappointed.

 

The Presidency officials said the areas had been shown to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, who were shocked to learn of the development.

 

One source said it was the stunning revelations from the Presidency that convinced the two leaders that the budget should be taken back and reviewed, given the level of distortions found in the document.

 

“After some formal and informal interactions, both leaders of the NASS indicated willingness to reconsider the controversial appropriation bill,” a Presidency official confirmed last night.

 

The leadership of the National Assembly held a crucial meeting on Monday night to take a final stance on the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent to the controversial 2016 budget.

 

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, would chair the meeting to be held at his Abuja residence.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, and other principal officers of the Senate and the House would attend the meeting.

The budget of N6.06tn had been passed by the National Assembly on March 23.

With just days to April 23, a date the budget would have been with Buhari for 30 days, it was still unclear last night if the President had returned it to the legislature stating reasons why he would not sign it as provided under Section 59 of the 1999 Constitution.

But some legislative officials informed The PUNCH that the aim of the meeting was for the leadership of both chambers to take a position in anticipation that Buhari would return the document with explanatory notes on the “grey areas.”

“The meeting may not necessarily be about overriding the President’s veto. There isn’t a veto per se because Buhari has not said so officially.

“It is to look at the areas where the executive has already complained of distortions in the budget so that both houses will agree on what to do when a formal letter comes from the Presidency,” said an official.

The meeting was billed to start around 9pm.

The House in particular, had on Wednesday last week, delegated Dogara to meet with Buhari to discuss with the latter on the grey areas in the budget.

However, the Speaker reportedly met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the absence of Buhari, who was away to China at the time.

The VP was said to have transmitted a “list of items” to Dogara on the areas that the President sought to be included in the budget.

As at Monday that the lawmakers still expected the President to comply with the provisions of Section 59 by formally writing the National Assembly.

Another official said “That is the essence of this meeting. It is for both houses to take a stance on what to do, should the President formally return the budget,”

 

 

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