President Muhammadu Buhari has justified his signing of the 2022 budget despite what he described as ‘worrisome changes‘ made by lawmakers to the finance law.
He said signing the budget was necessary to save important projects, programmes and policies.
Mr Buhari also said that had he declined assent to the budget, the lawmakers would exercise their powers and override his veto – a situation he said would not be necessary considering the cordial relationship that exists between the Legislature and the Executive.
The president was reacting to controversies surrounding the budget signing on Friday and his criticism of the National Assembly’s handling of the budget.
He also complained that the lawmakers reduced the allocations for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment Projects’.
“Provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects were reduced while 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly,” Mr Buhari said in his speech during the ceremony.
However, in a late Sunday statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, the president said he is not angry with the lawmakers.
He said disagreements such as the ones he listed, are normal in the everyday Executive-Parliamentary relationship because “executive and legislative judgements don’t always have to be the same.”
Despite the alterations by the National Assembly, there are still thousands of provisions in the 2022 Budget, all of which, when efficiently and effectively implemented, will have significant developmental impacts on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians, Mr Shehu explained.
“Given the president’s commitment to improving the lot of the common man, it would not be wise to throw away the baby with the bathwater.
“Ongoing Capital Projects, Critical Recurrent Votes, Priority New Projects – all feature in the 2022 Budget and the president’s forbearance in assenting to the Budget will save these provisions from implementation delays and other challenges.
“If the president had declined assent to the 2022 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly has powers to override the President’s veto if they can drum up a 2/3 majority vote.
“Happily, this situation has not arisen during the tenure of the president’s administration, and the Executive’s relationship with the Leadership of the 9th National Assembly is much improved over what happened with the 8th National Assembly,” Mr Shehu said.
The spokesperson said it is on account of Mr Buhari’s confidence in the working relationship that he directed that a proposal to amend the budget should be prepared and submitted to the National Assembly, once they return from their recess.
“It is important therefore that, in place of “anger” or confrontation, President Buhari showed the democracy-loving side of his personality as he signed the budget at the same time calling for dialogue with the parliament to resolve the contentious issues.”
The presidency and the ninth assembly, Mr Shehu said, are committed to a good neighbourly relationship and this or any other disagreement between the two arms of government will not alter the dynamics of that relationship.