PDP Reacts as Buhari Says 2019 Budget Faces Difficulties
President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday that the 2019 budget would be difficult to implement following the changes introduced to it by the National Assembly.
But the Peoples Democratic Party dismissed the President’s complaint, saying there was no way the National Assembly would return the budget to him the way it was brought to them.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which noted that there had been complaints over the adjustment of budgets by the legislature over the years, said the judiciary should be allowed to determine whether lawmakers had the power to adjust the budget.
There were indications that Buhari might return the 2019 budget to the ninth National Assembly for a review as the tenure of the current legislature would expire on June 8.
The President signed the N8.92tn budget on Monday but quickly pointed out that the legislature increased his original proposal by N90.33bn from the N8.83tn estimates he laid before it in December 2018.
Speaking at the event, which was witnessed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, Buhari said his next line of action was to engage the National Assembly on how best to ensure a smooth implementation of the budget.
He also said his administration and the ninth National Assembly would work more closely to return the country to the January-December budget cycle.
The President said, “You will all recall that in December 2018, I presented our 2019 budget proposal with the theme ‘Budget of continuity.’ Our goal was to use this budget to move the economy further on the path of inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth.
“Back then, I proposed a total expenditure of N8.83tn to the National Assembly for appropriation, targeting strategic and impactful projects and initiatives. However, the 2019 budget I will be signing into law today (Monday) provides for the aggregate expenditure of N8.92tn. This is an increase of N90.33bn over our submission.
“This increase reflects changes introduced by the National Assembly. In some areas, expenses we proposed were reduced while in other areas, they were increased. There were also certain areas where new additions were introduced into the budget. More details of the approved budget will be provided by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.”
Buhari said some of the changes would adversely impact his government’s programmes, making it difficult to achieve the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
He said, “Although I will be signing this bill, it is my intention to continue to engage the National Assembly to ensure we deliver on our promises. I will, therefore, be engaging with the leadership of the ninth National Assembly, as soon as they emerge, to address some of our concerns with this budget.
“We will also look at how to improve the budget process, so that, amongst other things, we can speed up budget consideration processes and return the country to the January-December fiscal year timetable.”
Buhari made a similar complaint about the 2018 budget, bordering on “insertions” he said were not in the original executive proposals.
The dispute delayed the implementation of the budget as both the executive and the legislature argued over which of the two arms had the power of appropriation under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The disagreement petered out after the President forwarded a series of supplementary proposals to the National Assembly to address the gaps he said the legislature created in the budget.
However, at the signing ceremony for this year’s budget on Monday, Dogara responded to the President’s complaints, insisting that the legislature was not expected to just stamp the executive proposals for presidential assent.
The Speaker argued that merely approving the executive proposals without alterations by the National Assembly would have eroded the relevance of the legislature in a democracy and the principle of checks and balances.
He said, “The issues raised (by the President) relate to certain reductions that were made in the budget and some sub-head increases that were made and that such reductions would make it a bit difficult for some of those projects to be implemented.
“But he said it is an ongoing process and he will have discussions with the leadership of the National Assembly to see what they will be able to do in order to put that behind them and then execute whatever critical projects that suffered some form of hurt in the process of passing the project in the National Assembly.”
Specifically, on the cuts and increases made by the National Assembly, Dogara said, “By the constitution and design, the executive informs us what they intend to do and the representatives of the people in the National Assembly decide what is a priority since they represent the people. It is going to be a knotty area but we will continue to define the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
“Whether it is Britain or the US, wherever it is, there is always a strained relationship on this issue of budget. That is because it deals with high-stake distributional issues as to who gets what, which part of Nigeria gets this and that; so it will continually be an issue.
“We should not be defined by those issues, rather we should define those issues by forming a consensus that is the part to progress and we will continue to do that.”
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