President Muhammadu Buhari’s disagreement with the National Assembly over the 2022 budget has not affected his relationship with the lawmakers, his office has said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Buhari queried the ‘worrisome changes’ made by the National Assembly to the budget.
The president criticised the lawmakers for reducing funding for critical projects and inserting thousands of unnecessary projects into the budget.
“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 at the budget signing ceremony, according to a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES by his office.
“Most of the projects inserted relate to matters that are basically the responsibilities of State and Local Governments, and do not appear to have been properly conceptualized, designed and costed,” he said.
In its reaction to the media reports of the president’s criticism, presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu said though Mr Buhari disapproved of the way the lawmakers handled the budget, there was no rift between both arms of government.
Read Mr Shehu’s full statement below.
PRESIDENCY: NO CRISIS OVER BUDGET BETWEEN EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATURE, THERE WILL BE NONE
-REPORTS OF BUHARI ANGER WITH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FICTIONAL.
The Presidency wishes to clear the air regarding the widely-viewed/reported episode on Friday, December 31st at the State House during the signing of the 2022 Budget and Finance Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari; specifically on the insertion in the 2022 Appropriation Act, of 6,576 new schemes worth about N37 billion by the National Assembly.
While it is true that the President expressed disagreement with these and many of the other alterations, including the “reduction in the provisions for many strategic capital projects to introduce ‘Empowerment Projects’,” innumerable lies are being spread about the President being “angry” at, had “blasted” or “lashed out” at the Parliament. This cannot be farther from the truth.
As the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan said shortly after the budget-signing ceremony, disagreements as the ones listed by the President are normal in the everyday Executive-Parliamentary relationship because, as he explained, “executive and legislative judgements don’t always have to be the same.”
While we note that there are people who are trying to create a fiasco between the two arms of government on account of the budget, we assure that they will, in the end, be disappointed. The Executive and the 9th National Assembly have since moved away from the wild, destructive political games of the past, conducting themselves in a way that puts national interest supreme in their decisions. We doubt if there is a patriotic citizen who wants to see the return of the operating environment engendered by the 8th Senate when an elected government was held in chains, held hostage to the desperate political ambitions of a clique, and the public denied needed services including that which impinged on national security. Happily, the 9th National Assembly is more about policy than politics.
Under the constitution, both arms of government are coequal and at the same time, independent and interdependent. The rule of the game is cooperation and the President, as a democrat fully accepts this.
Rationale for Assenting to the 2022 Appropriation Act:
Mr. President was clear and candid in expressing his reservations with the numerous changes to the 2022 Budget made by the National Assembly, which would hamper its implementation. However, to respond to critics that question why assent to the Budget if it was so severely tampered with, we wish to respond as follows:
(1) Need to Save Value-Additive Projects, Programs & Policies:
Although over 10,733 projects were reduced and 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly, there are tens of thousands more provisions in the 2022 Budget, all of which, when efficiently and effectively implemented, will have significant developmental impact on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians.
Given Mr. President’s commitment to improving the lot of the Common Man, it was felt that 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 Mr. President’s forbearance in assenting to the Budget will save these provisions from implementation delays and other challenges.
(2) Dealing with Modern Democratic Norms:
President Buhari is a democrat who deeply believes in the supremacy of the Constitution, with its checks and balances across the three arms of Government. In terms of the passage of legislations like the Appropriation Act and other Money Bills, the National Assembly has equal responsibilities with the Executive. Indeed, if Mr. 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. This is the constitution. Happily, this situation has not arisen during the tenure of Mr. 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. It is on account of his confidence in the strength of this excellent working relationship that Mr. President has directed that an Amendment Budget Proposal should be prepared and submitted to the National Assembly, once they return from their recess. It is hoped that the National Assembly will carefully consider and approve the 2022 Amendment Budget Proposals, once presented to them in due course, for the benefit of all Nigerians.
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 under Muhammadu Buhari and the parliament under Lawal and Gbajabiamila are committed to a good neighborly relationship and this or any other disagreement between the two arms of government will not alter the dynamics of that relationship.
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)
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