By SundiataPOST, Abuja
The Presidency on Tuesday further explained the delay in presenting the 2014 budget, saying it is meant to ensure that there was a strong intergovernmental harmony between the executive and the National Assembly in order avoid a replay of the impasse that had always been characteristic of budget passage.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati made this clarification while addressing State House Correspondents at the presidential Villa, Abuja. He however, assured that the Presidency would “cause the budget to be laid before the National Assembly as soon as the harmonization is concluded”.
The executive is said to putting up measures to check against carrying over bloated budget in 2014 following indications that law makers are seeking increased spending for next year, as the country inches closer to the 2015 general elections. Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is said to be proposing a curb in public expenditure in the 2014 budget.
In an attempt to avoid a situation that led government to incur excess spending of about $6 billion of oil savings this year to cover budget revenue shortfalls, Abati said, “Previous acrimonies were blamed on failure of inter- governmental relationship.
“The budget has been ready for over a week now, but since the two arms of the National Assembly are yet to harmonize their positions on the Crude oil bench mark in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF and the fiscal strategy paper, FSP, it was wise for Mr. President to wait until this is done”, he added
Abati noted that the Executive was working hard to avoid such acrimonies and save Nigeria the unnecessary stress of post budget passage delays caused by disagreement between the Legislature and the Executive.
In the same vein, Political Adviser to the President, Barrister Ahmed Gulak has refuted claims that President Jonathan was avoiding the National Assembly over alleged plans by members loyal to the aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members to embarrass the President.
Speaking to State House Correspondents on Tuesda, Gulak said, “This is not true. First, the President is not scared of any body and secondly, the PDP is one strong united party and as such no one can embarrass the President in the National Assembly.
“These people are not on ground. They do not even know how to do political calculation properly. They should stay in their states and develop it and make impact in their respective states instead of doing things that will not profit them”
Accordingly, the presidential aide also advised aggrieved members of the party to seek redress through appropriate channels or leave the party honourably.
The Senate had earlier rejected the president’s oil benchmark of $74 per barrel and instead, raised it up to $76.50 per barrel, while the House of Representatives on the other hand also rejected the $74 per barrel and raised it to $79, while approving daily oil production of 2.388mbpd, 2.5007mbpd and 2.5497mbpd for 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively as proposed by the president.
The Senate joint committee on finance and appropriations chaird by Ahmed Makarfi’s had in its reports on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) made recommendation that they should be so reflected in the 2014 budget before it can be presented to the National Assembly for consideration and passage.
It will be recalled that the 2013 budget which was passed in record time, could not be assented to until after over three months of horse-trading and haggling between the executive and legislative arms, over what should or should not be expunged from the budget, a situation that led to trauma and difficult challenges for Nigerians
The President had given his assent reluctantly, complaining that the document was replete with landmines.