President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday appealed to the National Assembly to speed up the passage of the 2013 budget amendment bill.
He said that without the passage of the amended budget which he brought to the two chambers some months ago, his government would be incapable of realising the objectives set out in the current fiscal year, even as the President was asked to list out priority areas in the budget.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters , Sen.Joy Emordi, who conveyed Jonathan’s position at a news conference in Abuja yesterday, also called on the lawmakers to give an accelerated legislative consideration to the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Both Senate and the House of Representatives are yet to deliberate on the 2013 Appropriation Bill. President Jonathan sent the document to the two chambers following his rejection of some aspects of the 2013 budget which he signed in January. One of the grey areas is the zero allocation given to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the budget.
Emordi, who disclosed that the President will present the 2014 budget at a record time, said the disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly over last year’s budget will help “make our future budget smoother and better.”
She said: “I appeal to the National Assembly to once again,exhibit uncommon leadership by expediting legislative actions on the grey areas of 2013 Appropriation Act to ensure that we have a first – rate budget that addresses undesirable issues while also actualising the aims and objectives set out in the current fiscal year”.
On the PIB, she advised, “I enjoin Distinguished Senators and Honourable members to give the PIB an accelerated legislative consideration in order to facilitate Federal Government’s master plan for repositioning the oi! and gas sector for the benefit of Nigeria and its people.
Meanwhile, Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) said yesterday that the Presidency is delaying amendment of the N4.987 trillion 2013 budget, noting that the Senate leadership has already asked President Jonathan to list “areas of priority” wanted in the budget.
He also noted that the Upper Legislative Chamber only received “communication from the President on those priority areas” just last week.
“The Senate leadership has written President Goodluck Jonathan and we only received the areas of priority that would be amended in 2013 budget last Wednesday,” he said.
Senate Appropriation Committee Chairman, Ahmed Maccido, confirmed receipt of the “priority areas,” adding that, “the committee has commenced work on them. We just received those priority areas because initially, the areas they wanted amended was quite much and we asked them to be specific. We only just got those areas they want amended. We will start work soon.”
The President signed the 2013 budget in February, two months after the National Assembly passed the budget with the expectation that Nigeria would now run her national budget from January-December.
He reportedly signed the budget based on assurances from the leadership of the National Assembly that they would amend it thereafter.
Jonathan forwarded the amendments to the National Assembly on March 14. Alongside other requests, he asked the two arms to reduce their powers over the budget and reverse the zero allocation to SEC, saying withholding the agency’s funds would affect the capital market.
In separate letters to Senate President David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the President rejected ambitious clauses 6 (11), 7, 9 and 10 in the prior signed 2013 Budget Act which allows the Senate and the House to monitor all monies disbursed by the executive for project execution, an arrangement federal lawmakers say will check the perennial problem of poor budget implementation.
Meanwhile, the Senate Leader also declared that the option of reciprocity was available to Nigeria in countering the United Kingdom plan to place a £3,000 bond on Nigerians seeking entry to the country.
“Reciprocity is not an option lost to us (Nigeria),” he said yesterday.
The Sunday Times of London had quoted UK Home Secretary Theresa May as saying that a pilot scheme that would target visitors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana would take off in November under which travellers from those countries would pay a cash deposit of £3,000 to deter immigration abuse.
They will forfeit the money if they overstay their visas.