A top source in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian in Abuja that President Muhammadu Buhari was ready to sign the 2016 budget as soon as the appropriation committee completes its task of addressing the grey areas pointed out in a number of sectors.
The source who said that the president was deeply upset about the delay in the passage of the 2016 budget expressed delight that the lawmakers are working on the irregularities pointed out by the executive and the lawmakers as well.
According to the source, the current delay is not caused by the executive.
The presidency was also said to have begun extensive work on the 2017 appropriation document and would be ready to transmit it to the lawmakers so as to prevent a repeat of budget delay next year.
However, the source said that the priority remained the passage of the 2016 budget before focusing on the 2017 fiscal plan.
“We are happy that the National Assembly has accepted responsibility and offered to take a look at the grey areas of the 2016 budget. Mr. President is particularly pleased with this position.
“We are not in anyway pleased that the budget has not been passed up till now. This was not our making at all. In fact, as we speak, we have begun detailed work on the 2017 appropriation document to make it ready to be forwarded to the National Assembly.
But we can’t do that just yet because the 2016 budget is being awaited. Final work is currently ongoing before it is brought to the president for assent,” the presidency source said.
On the relationship between NASS and the presidency, the source said that it was cordial, noting that much of what appeared as misunderstanding between the two arms of government was escalated by the media.
“The presidency and NASS are in constant touch. We have a very cordial relationship. I believe what happened was that the press did so much speculation and got the lawmakers to be responding to media reports.
We have an understanding and we are confident that the two arms of the legislature would fully harmonise and come up with the 2016 budget that the executive can defend,” the source said.
Meanwhile, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, has cautioned both parties in the budget impasse to bring it to an urgent end in the overall national interest.
He spoke as the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, endorsed President Buhari’s stance not to sign the budget until he sees all the details of the document.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a private meeting with the president at the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, Nnamani would, however, not dispute or confirm media reports that he had pitched his tent with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) after having recently decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Nnamani, who visited the Villa with Masari, expressed concern about the budget face-off, saying that the differences arising from the matter between the executive and the legislature should be resolved.
He added that the issue of budget should be a joint responsibility of both the legislature and executive as no arm of the government could do it without the other.
His words: “The issue of budget is an area where we practise what we call co-management between the National Assembly and the executive branch of government, both of them co-manage the economy through the budget.
It is a peculiar area where both of them will have to cooperate and collaborate for a proper budget to be passed, and once it is passed, it becomes law.”
Also, the Senate Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, has said that the “distortions and misallocations” of budgetary proposals to Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are preventing Buhari from signing the 2016 budget into law.
The distortions and budgetary misallocations, according to him, are also contrary to Section 54 of the 1999 Constitution that spells out clearly the “conditions and terms” on which a budget proposal from the executive could be passed by legislature and signed into law.
Ndume, who spoke on Sunday at his Government Reservation Area (GRA) residence, Maiduguri at an interactive session with journalists on the delay in the signing of the budget, said that with the identified distortions and misallocations, the leadership of the National Assembly would sit with the president to correct or amend the distortions before the Appropriation Bill would be assented to.
His words: “If you’re working on a national budget, you have to scrutinise each and every budgetary allocation to the various MDAs, including the National Assembly.
This will enable the lawmakers in the upper and lower chambers to process it sector by sector, as it affects and improves on the performances of various sectors of the economy of the country.
“Contrary to enunciations in some quarters, we have no disagreements with the president on the 2016 budget that is yet to be assented into law for implementation.”