Reps Tackle Jonathan Over Budget Execution

President Goodluck Jonathan FOUR months after its passage of the budget, the House of Representatives appears dissatisfied with its implementation.

It is expected to begin debate today on what it calls “30 per cent implementation of the budget,” which it passed along with the Senate on March 15.

The House met to review the budget’s implementation at an executive (closed door) session in Abuja on Tuesday night.

At the session, members were said to have deplored what they considered “poor implementation” of the budget and may invite the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and other key government officials to explain things.

Yesterday, the Presidency spoke on why President Goodluck Jonathan did not honour the lawmakers’ invitation to brief them on measures being taken to address the issue of insecurity.

Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said his principal was not “formally” invited.

Last March 15, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed a N4.88 trillion budget with a benchmark of $72 per barrel.

The lawmakers jacked it up from the N4.65 trillion proposed by the President, who subsequently assented to a N4.7trillion budget on April 13.

Sources told The Nation yesterday that the House could not understand why the Executive has so far implemented only 30 per cent of the budget.

The House, it was learnt, settled for a debate to put the issue in proper perspective for the public.

A member said: “We have noticed across party divides that things are not just working as expected. Nigerians are not feeling the impact of the budget which implementation is just about 30 per cent.

“We have decided to assess its implementation at the plenary on Thursday (today) because Nigerians are bothered.

“We will also summon all Ministers who have connection with the budget on why things have been slow.”

Another lawmaker said: “There is paucity of funds for capital projects in the 2012 budget. We are suspecting certain level of mismanagement within the Executive arm.

“They are claiming that there is no fund but the Ministry of Petroleum Resources has been claiming that oil production is at its peak and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigerian Customs Service have been briefing the nation on how they have surpassed their targets.

“We want to open up the space and allow Nigerians to know the true picture of the situation. The revenue is coming but Nigerians are suffering.”

A high-ranking member, who was at the session, said fresh battle line has been drawn between the House and the Executive.

He said: “Each time we asked for information on the budget, the Executive has not been forthcoming. It is apparent that the presidency has contempt for the legislature, especially the House.

“We are going to discuss the budget implementation and raise issues to allow Nigerians to judge the situation.

“It is our own way of crying out that the legislature is not doing well under this administration. We invited the President for interaction on the insecurity in the country, he refused to appear. We asked him to remove the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arunma Oteh; he reinstated her under security siege. We have been asking questions on the budget, nobody is ready to listen to us.

“We will put the Executive to task, debate and take appropriate action to compel the Executive arm to implement the 2012 budget.”

Contacted, Chairman of the House Committee on Media Alhaji Zakari Mohammed, said: “Yes, it is true that we are going to hold a session on the state of budget implementation on Thursday but you should wait till after the debate before you hear from me.

“It is the House that determines what I say or tell the press and the public.”

There has been a cold war between the House and the Presidency over the implementation of the fuel subsidy probe report and Jonathan’s seeming refusal to honour the lawmakers’ invitation on insecurity in the land.

The House had sent the report, which indicted the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and several oil companies for subsidy fraud to the Presidency for execution.

Since receiving the report, nothing has been heard from the Presidency, raising fears that it may take no action.

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mohammed Adoke (SAN), who the President referred the report to, has since said that those found culpable would be tried.

The House is also not happy that the President has not honoured its invitation to address it on measures being taken to secure the country.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed to resolve the debacle as the House insisted that the President must honour its invitation.

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