Jonathan avoids National Assembly, sends Okonjo-Iweala to present 2015 budget

Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

At a time of intense tension between Nigeria’s executive and legislative arms of government, President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed Tuesday he will not be presenting the 2015 budget proposal personally to the National Assembly, in a move that appears aimed at avoiding a possible confrontation with lawmakers.

Mr. Jonathan has mandated finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to do the presentation on his behalf.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala will present the budget Wednesday, separately to the Senate and the House of Representatives, both houses of parliament announced Tuesday.

Lawmakers have been furious at Mr. Jonathan after police launched a humiliating raid on the National Assembly in November, firing teargas as they attempted to stop the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, from entering the complex.

The government and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] have remained angry with Mr. Tambuwal after he defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress [APC].

Mr. Jonathan has not categorically denied knowledge of the police siege, although his office claimed the police acted right to check an alleged assault on the National Assembly by hoodlums.

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Lawmakers have been more infuriated after nearly half of them lost out at the primaries of the two major parties in the last two weeks.

The lawmakers blame the president for failing to help them return in 2015.

Aggrieved senators blame the Senate president, David Mark, amid reports some legislators planned to move against Mr. Mark.

A letter written by President Jonathan to the Senate and the House of Representatives Tuesday said the presentation of the budget will be done by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala did the presentation on behalf of the president in 2013. At the time, there were concerns over oil price benchmark and the venue of the joint sitting.

Mr. Jonathan said his new request is based on the provisions of Section 81 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

The president requested that the Senate grant entry to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala during its plenary meeting.

Mr. Jonathan submitted a revised version of the 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, which had earlier been sent in twice and withdrawn each time.

The president noted that after the last submission, oil prices fell immensely.

He said the decision of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their meeting in Vienna, November 27, not to cut production to support the price, led to the fall in the oil price to below $70 per barrel.

President Jonathan stated that these developments in the international oil market had called for further revisions and amendments to the MTEF.

“I hereby forward copies of the revised 2015-2017 MTEF for kind consideration of distinguished members of the Senate and hope it would be considered and approved expeditiously in order to bring the 2015 federal government of Nigeria budget preparation process to quick closure,” he wrote.

The president urged the senate to consider and approve the MTEF proposal and the budget.

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