Abuja — Fear has gripped ministers and permanent secretaries following revelations that many of them aided and abetted members of the National Assembly to inflate the final figure of the 2013 budget from the original N4.25 trillion submitted by President Goodluck Jonathan to N4.98 trillion.
Some ministers, it has been learnt, are in trouble because they, in collaboration with permanent secretaries went behind the President to approve some 'spurious' projects to be included in the controversial 2013 budget after Jonathan had already sent in the proposal to the National Assembly.
A competent source disclosed that the President was very upset with the practice whereby lawmakers connive with top public officers in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and introduce extraneous items into the yearly budget thereby making it impossible for them to be fully implemented.
The source, who did not want to be quoted because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, noted that the President had already ordered a thorough investigation into how the additional N63 billion was added to the 2013 budget and to identify the ministers and MDAs involved for necessary sanctions.
The source maintained that although the President does not need to do anything against lawmakers apart from returning the budget to them, the ministers and other public officials, found to have supported the padding of the budget would not go scot-free.
"Some of you are quick to say that the President is not doing anything but you can see that he really means well for this country by taking necessary steps to ensure early preparation and passage of the 2013 budget only to be unduly delayed by some pecuniary-conscious people.
"The President wants to know those behind the action and punish them so that the unpatriotic action would be brought to an end," the source hinted.
It was learnt that a female minister, who had ignored the advice of her top officials and cooperated with two committees of the National Assembly, which have oversight over the ministry, to add more projects than what had been approved by the Presidency, is now jittery that she could be dropped by the President, who is said to be planning a reshuffle.
The said minister was reportedly trying desperately to reach out to some influential presidential aides and National Assembly leadership to see how she could be bailed out of the looming crisis.
In the absence of a concrete assurance from those she met, the woman is said to have gone back to prepare a 'solid defence' to present to the President, justifying why she gave in after being pressurised by the two committees of the National Assembly to select more capital projects to be included in the budget.
Last Thursday, chairmen and deputy chairmen of committees in the National Assembly met for hours with a view to sorting out some issues relating to the budget, which has technically been rejected by President Jonathan on three grounds.
Beyond jerking the figure by N63 billion, the lawmakers are insisting on $79 oil benchmark against the President’s $75 and a zero allocation to the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC, because of the differences between them and its DG, Arunma Oteh.
It is not clear whether the NASS would change its mind on any of the issues, but the National Assembly adviser to President Jonathan, Senator Joy Emordi, has said the two sides were 'working harmoniously for Nigerians'.