30 March 2016, Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari will not sign the 2016 Appropriation Bill into law until the National Assembly makes the details of the budget available to him, a top government official has said.
The Senate is currently on Easter break while Buhari will be travelling to Washington, United States, for the Nuclear Security Summit on Wednesday and scheduled to return to the country during the weekend.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told journalists on Tuesday that Buhari was handicapped as far as signing the bill was concerned because the President did not know what was contained in the bill.
He added that the President was in the dark as regards the adjustments the National Assembly had made to the proposal he sent to the federal lawmakers.
The source added, “The President has just received the transmission of the Appropriation Bill (2016 Budget) from the National Assembly and is very anxious to sign it into law, but the National Assembly only sent in the highlights without the details of the budget.
“Although he is anxious to sign the document so that implementation of the provisions could start immediately and ease the tension in the economy and polity, he is afraid he may later discover, when the details are sent, that what is contained therein is not implementable.
“He wishes that the National Assembly could send the details speedily so that it could be considered for assent.
“Ministers are also eager that the budget be signed so they could start implementing their programmes, but they are unable to push the President to sign what has been transmitted because they also do not know what is contained in the details.
“They are particularly worried that the year is gradually aging and the provision of the law in respect of spending the previous year’s budget is not helping matters because of the low capital provision for 2015.
“Because of the low provision made last year for capital expenditure, spending 50 per cent of that provision for the first half of this year will make no impact on the provision of infrastructure.”
The government official explained that the National Assembly’s delay in transmitting details of the budget, as passed to the President, confirmed insinuations that the lawmakers either did not conclude work on the budget or were playing politics with it.
He claimed that the National Assembly might have hurriedly passed the bill in order to pass the buck to the executive to escape the wrath of the people.
“The Budget Office cannot also work on the budget for implementation because it is the details, and not the highlights, that they convert into implementable templates for the respective MDAs.
“The National Assembly may just have passed the bill to pass the buck to the executive and escape the wrath of the public which was gradually suspecting it of sabotage,” he said.
But the House of Representatives said on Tuesday that Buhari was in a position to know the urgent action to take to sign the 2016 Appropriation Bill into law.
It noted that having passed the bill, it was no longer the responsibility of the National Assembly to ask the President to play his own role.
The National Assembly had passed a budget of N6.06tn on Wednesday last week.
The document was transmitted to the Presidency within 24 hours by the Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa.
However, one week after the passing of the budget, there hasn’t been a presidential assent to the bill.
Hopes had been placed on the budget to inject needed funds into the economy at a time of deepening financial challenges.
Last week, the Presidency had said Buhari was taking his time to study the details of the budget before appending his signature.
When The PUNCH sought the reaction of the House on Tuesday to the delayed signing of the budget, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, said the legislature had played its own part.
Namdas added that it was not part of the responsibilities of the lawmakers to “complain for Mr. President on his action.”
He stated, “The President, we are sure, is taking this issue of budget seriously and will act accordingly at the appropriate time.
“It is his duty to sign the budget; it is his role to do that. It is not for us to complain for him because it is within his purview.
“For us, we have done our own. It is left for the President to do the right thing.”
Namdas stated that Buhari was aware of the problems of Nigeria and did not require further prompting to sign the budget.
The harmonised figure of N6.06tn, passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, was about N17bn less than the initial N6.07tn proposed by Buhari.
However, the National Assembly retained most of the projections of the President, including the $38 proposed as the crude oil benchmark.